In pancreatic cancer, there is an abnormality in the ways the pancreatic cells multiply. The disease occurs when the cells in the pancreas start multiplying abruptly, which leads to the formation of a mass, also known as a tumor. When this tumor is cancerous, it is identified as a malignant tumor, which can further grow and spread to other body parts. Simultaneously, the formation of the tumor and its spread also affects the functions of the pancreas and other organs.
Pancreatic cancer does not cause any signs or symptoms in its early stages. The symptoms start appearing when it has already spread to adjacent organs. Below are some of the symptoms that the patients experience when they are at the later stages of pancreatic cancer:
Jaundice and jaundice-related symptoms
Jaundice affects almost every person who has pancreatic cancer as the first symptom of cancer. It causes the yellowing of the skin and the eyes. Jaundice occurs when bilirubin, a substance produced in the liver, does not reach the intestines due to a blockage in the bile duct and gets accumulated in the body. Cancer that takes place in the head of the pancreas is close to the bile duct; therefore, it often blocks the bile duct and causes jaundice. Pancreatic cancer also causes jaundice when it spreads to the liver.
Back or belly pain
Cancer that starts in the body or tail of the pancreas can grow pretty large and can press against other nearby organs leading to belly or back pain. It also has a tendency of spreading to other areas surrounding the pancreas leading to back pain.
Poor appetite and weight loss
One of the most common symptoms of pancreatic cancer is unintended weight loss where people have little to no appetite.
Vomiting or nausea
These symptoms occur when cancer presses against the stomach to an extent where the stomach gets partly blocked, which also makes it hard to get the food through.
Enlargement of the liver or gallbladder
The liver produces bile which plays a vital role in digesting food and absorbing fats and fat-soluble vitamins in the small intestine. When the pancreas presses against the liver due to cancer, it blocks the bile duct leading to building up of the bile in the gallbladder or liver causing either of the organs to get enlarged.
Blood clots in the large vein of the leg are sometimes the first clue of cancer. It is also known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT). The symptoms of DVT can include pain, redness, swelling, and warmth in the affected leg. At times, a piece of the blood clot can also break and travel to the lungs where it causes chest pain and difficulty in breathing.
Diabetes due to pancreatic cancer is rare but not impossible. As insulin is secreted from the pancreas, the development of cancer can lead to the destruction of insulin-making cells.
As pancreatic cancer is known for having one of the worst prognosis, it can be possible for pancreatic cancer patients to feel discouraged about their health and lead to depression.