Pancreatic cancer is a form of the disease with a very poor prognosis: this means that survival rates are very low and only about 4% of people who are diagnosed live longer than 5 years after the diagnosis is made. At first it was believed that there were no early warning signs of pancreatic cancer and, indeed, most people only find out they have it when the disease has become advanced. However, anecdotal evidence is emerging, based on the statements of pancreatic cancer patients, that some odd symptoms do show up early in the disease; the problem is they are ignored since patients do not realize their significance.
Onset of Diabetes
The link between diabetes onset and pancreatic cancer is a fairly new discovery, but recently an article published by the Mayo Clinic revealed that 40% of their pancreatic cancer patients had had a new diagnosis of diabetes within two years of being diagnosed with cancer. Researchers are not sure why this is, but suspect that pancreatic tumors that have not been detected might be causing the diabetes. The problem with this, of course, is that for the majority of diabetics, their disease is not caused by cancer, so more research is needed on this subject.
The yellowing of the skin or the whites of the eyes, and itchy palms or soles of the feet are symptoms of jaundice. Jaundice symptoms are common in pancreatic cancer patients, since even tumors of small size can block the bile duct. When the duct is blocked, bile builds up and this causes these classic symptoms.
Changes in Appetite and Taste
Many pancreatic patients report that, even months or a year before being diagnosed, their appetite was greatly diminished and that they felt full even after eating just a little. They also reported a change in tastes, especially in regards to alcohol or caffeine, and that these could make them nauseous even if they had previously enjoyed them. Not surprisingly, then, weight loss was also a symptom.
Changes in Stool
Stools that are either dark and tarry-looking or are pale, floating and smelling could both indicate the onset of pancreatic cancer. The pale, floating stools come from an excess of fat since the body is no longer able to digest this fat as efficiently with a compromised pancreas. The dark and tarry stools are due to bleeding in the upper intestines, another symptom of pancreatic cancer.
If someone has these symptoms, it is a good idea to go to a doctor and have him or her run tests to see what is going on. As with any form of cancer, early detection and treatment and raise the chances of that treatment being effective and also lengthen life expectancy after a diagnosis is made.