Pancreatic cancer occurs when cancerous cells grow, divide and then spread into the pancreas.
The pancreas is a spongy, tube-shaped organ which is six inches long and located at the back of the stomach or abdomen.
“It has two major jobs in the body: to make digestive juices (called enzymes) that help break down food, and to make hormones, including insulin, that control the body’s use of sugars and starches,” explains WebMD.
According to experts, pancreatic cancer is known as a “silent” disease due to symptoms typically not showing up in the early stages.
Researchers have identified two unrecognised early symptoms with the discovery helping doctors better diagnose the disease.
Symptoms of pancreatic cancer
A recent study found that thousands of patients are dying early from pancreatic cancer that is being missed on scans.
Researchers found a whopping 36% of pancreatic cancer deaths could have been avoidable if it was picked up sooner.
A large reason for this includes early signs not being picked up after scans, which in turn means many are missing out on potentially life-saving surgery.
Jaundice and dark yellow urine
Both yellowing of the skin (jaundice) and bleeding in the stomach or intestine were seen as the two most serious symptoms associated with the disease.
Researchers have found two other lesser-known and unrecognised warning signs of pancreatic cancer, which include an increased thirst and dark yellow urine.
These symptoms were identified in a study last year.
Other symptoms included:
Change in bowel habits
Fat in stool
“When pancreatic cancer is diagnosed earlier, patients have a higher chance of survival,” said Dr Weiqi Liao, data scientist at the University of Oxford.
“It is possible to diagnose patients when they visit their GP, but both patients and GPs need to be aware of the symptoms associated with pancreatic cancer.”
“Being aware of the early symptoms of pancreatic cancer is crucial if we are to diagnose patients earlier and improve pancreatic cancer survival,” added Dr Pippa Corrie, chair of the pancreatic workstream of the NCRI Upper Gastrointestinal Group and Consultant Medical Oncologist at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, UK.
“This research could help GPs and their patients know more about the signs of pancreatic cancer. It’s vital that people speak to their GP if they notice these symptoms.”
Treatment for pancreatic cancer
According to Cancer Research UK, a person’s treatment will depend on:
Where your cancer is
Whether it has spread (the stage)
The type of cancer
How abnormal the cells look under a microscope (the grade)
Your general health and level of fitness.