It is common for people with pancreatic cancer to experience jaundice, characterized by yellowing of the eyes or skin. Jaundice can also cause itchiness on the hands and feet, especially the palms and soles.
Any size of tumor located in the head of the pancreas can lead to irregular bile (a yellowish-brown fluid released by your liver to aid digestion) flowing from the gallbladder into the small intestine. This causes excess buildup of bilirubin in the blood, one of the main causes of jaundice.
If you have signs of jaundice, consult your doctor as it is a common symptom of many liver and gallbladder diseases as well as a sign of pancreatic cancer. If other causes are ruled out, ask your doctor about testing for pancreatic cancer.
Abdominal and Lower Back Pain
Abdominal as well as back pain are also common symptoms in patients with pancreatic cancer. Usually, the sharp pain is felt in the upper abdomen, which gradually radiates toward the back.
Many patients also report the pain is more severe at night and that they get slight relief from the pain by bending forward.
A 2001 study published in the Pancreas journal found that abdominal pain in pancreatic cancer patients can be due to the increasing size of the tumor, invasion of the intra-pancreatic nerves, invasion of the anterior pancreatic capsule and lymph node metastasis.
If you are experiencing persistent, mild to moderate abdominal pain, consult a doctor. Most cases of pancreatic cancer are diagnosed in patients visiting the emergency room complaining of severe abdominal pain.
In fact, the location of the pain is helpful in determining where a tumor is located.
Nausea and Vomiting
Nausea followed by vomiting is another sign of pancreatic cancer. As the tumor grows, it can block some portions of the digestive tract, which hampers the overall digestion process.
Along with nausea and vomiting, you may also experience heartburn and acid reflux.
As any kind of interference with normal digestion and excretion processes can cause vomiting, all nausea and vomiting episodes are not necessarily linked with cancer.
Try peppermint or ginger tea as well as limiting your water intake with meals, but drink water between meals to reduce nausea.
If these symptoms tend to worsen after eating and it is becoming difficult for you to eat anything without throwing up, consult your doctor.
In advanced cases of pancreatic cancer, surgery may be required to bypass the blockage and improve digestion.
Sudden, Unexplained Weight Loss
Unexplained weight loss is another noticeable warning sign of different types of cancer, including pancreatic cancer.
Weight loss often occurs when a tumor spreads to nearby organs and impairs their functioning. This affects proper digestion of nutrients and also leads to poor appetite.
Also, due to lack of pancreatic enzymes aiding digestion, dietary fats start passing through the body undigested, which in turn causes weight loss. Furthermore, the cancer cells compete with healthy cells for nutrients.
If you have started losing weight suddenly without making any changes to your diet or physical activity, consult your doctor