When it comes to organs that you know you have to monitor, your heart, brain, and colon can be the highest jump in mind. Your pancreas? Not much.
But late Risk! host Alex Trebek brought some much-needed attention to the missed organ after the announcement that he had stage 4 pancreatic cancer in 2019. Trebek, host Risk! since 1984, lost Sunday morning, age 80.
Although pancreatic cancer is rarer than other forms of the disease, it is also one of the most fatal. And the survival rate of stage 4 pancreatic cancer is especially low. According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 55,440 people will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2018 and 44,330 will die from the disease. According to the US National Cancer Institute (SEER) Surveillance, Epidemiology, and Final Outcome Program (SEER), only about eight percent of all people with pancreatic cancer survive five years after their diagnosis. head. The five-year survival rate for patients diagnosed with metastatic or stage 4 pancreatic cancer is 3%. Once the patient is at this stage, the cancer has spread to other organs, such as the liver or lungs.
What could be more terrifying? Pancreatic cancer is difficult to detect and does not have to be checked periodically. In addition, it can also spread to other organs soon, Daniel M. Labow, MD, FACS, chair of surgery at Mount Sinai West and Mount Sinai St. Luke’s, also head of the department of cancer surgery and hepatobiliary surgery at Icahn, explains the School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
While not everyone with pancreatic cancer will experience symptoms early, knowing what to look out for can help your doctor treat it as soon as possible, which greatly increases your chances of survival. Here are eight possible signs of pancreatic cancer – including some that your doctor may never tell you.
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Your skin and eyes turn yellow.
Jaundice is the result of a buildup of bilirubin, or bile, in your blood. The bile duct passes through the pancreas, so when cancer cells grow near the top of the pancreas, a tumor can compress the bile duct, causing bile to back up into the bloodstream.
When the skin and the whites of your eyes turn yellow, the actual color pigment of the bile runs through the bloodstream, which is deposited in the skin and fat, says Dr. Labow. Other symptoms associated with jaundice are dark urine, Coca-Cola color and pale clay-colored stools, he added. “Bilirubin in the intestine is the substance that makes intestinal movement brown, and so when it goes back and goes into the bloodstream, it cannot enter the intestine,” he explained.
Dr. Labow said the pancreas plays an important role in fat digestion. If the enzymes of the bile and the pancreas fail to reach the gut due to a blockage – such as a tumor – the undigested fat increases the fat content in the stool, making it appear greasy. It can even float on the water in your toilet bowl.
Back pain or stomach pain.
“The pancreas is deep in the abdomen, so sometimes the nerves around the spine get excited [because of] “That can cause nagging pain in the upper and middle back,” says Dr. Labow.
Most of the time, this will not be a severe and alarming pain. “Sometimes people feel like they pull out and they think it gets better after a few days and it’s never quite that,” he added.
Pancreatic cancer can also cause pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas that can cause abdominal pain. Dr. Labow says you don’t need to have both back and stomach pain – it probably is.
Rapid weight loss for unknown reasons.
“Some secreted cancers [compounds] This can lead to rapid weight loss due to the breakdown of both adipose tissue and skeletal muscle, says Dr. Labow. “Even if you do not stop eating, you will never be able to gain or maintain weight,” Dr. Labow said.
While this applies to many different types of cancer, there is another reason that pancreatic cancer in particular could lead to rapid weight loss. “You don’t get fat and protein as usual, and so even if you eat well, you don’t have to absorb all the calories you are eating,” says Dr. Labow.
Nausea and vomiting.
Cancer in general may be associated with nausea and vomiting, but it is especially common with pancreatic cancer because the pancreas plays a key role in the digestive process.
“The pancreas is located right near the stomach and duodenum, is the first part of the small intestine,” Dr. Labow said. “A large amount can press on it, which can affect the way food leaves the stomach and gets into the digestive tract. So your stomach may not be as empty as it should be.”
A lump in the lower right side of your chest.
In some cases, you can actually feel the gallbladder in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen, protruding from below the rib cage.
“An enlarged gallbladder can happen due to the way bile fluid escapes in the bile duct,” explains Dr. Labow. “If the gallbladder and gallbladder are blocked [as a result of pancreatic cancer]Then sometimes it can cause the gallbladder to be quite large and stretch you can feel it.
Swollen, throbbing pain.
If one side of your leg is swollen and painful, it could be a sign of a deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a blood clot that forms in a deep vein in your body, usually in your leg.
Cancer is generally known to increase a patient’s risk of blood clots, as cancer can [induce a hypercoagulable state], or something that’s causing you to form an abnormal blood clot, “says Dr. Labow.
This becomes especially dangerous if the clot ruptures and travels to the lungs, known as pulmonary embolism, says Dr. Labow. “[Look for] Any sudden attacks of shortness of breath for no good reason, or an unexplained persistent tachycardia, he said. Pulmonary embolism can be fatal, but it can be treated if you have it, so check for these symptoms right away.
Although most of the above symptoms are not usually caused by pancreatic cancer, the old saying “better than sorry” still applies. “Any symptom that doesn’t have a clear explanation or lasts longer than a few days should be investigated in some way,” says Dr. Labow, even if it’s just an incoming call, says Dr. Labow. your doctor.
Diagnosis of diabetes
Although rare, pancreatic cancer can cause diabetes, according to the American Cancer Society. This is because the cancer destroys the cells that make insulin. When this happens, people may feel more thirsty or hungry than usual. Some patients may have no symptoms but can detect changes in blood sugar through a blood test.
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