Pancreatic cancer does not seem to be more susceptible to men or women, affecting both genders to a similar degree. However, there are strong correlations with older age and the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. Over half the diagnosed cases of this cancer are in those who are 71 years old or above. For those who are younger than 40 years, the disease is fortunately very uncommon. Those more at risk of developing this form of cancer include people with diabetes, those who smoke cigars or pipes and those whose weight is above their recommended level for their height.
The diagnosis of pancreatic cancer can be difficult due to the subtleties that the tumor has during its early stages, much like the development of cancer in the colon. However, there are a number of signs and symptoms that are typical of the disease and this article will run through a number of them, while also highlighting exactly what pancreatic cancer is.
What is pancreatic cancer?
Pancreatic cancer forms when body cells within or around the pancreas undergo a cycle of cell division (mitosis), that is incredibly fast and out of control. This results in the formation of tissue which is abnormal to the cells it surrounds - this mass is known as a malignant (cancerous) tumor. As is the case with bowel cancer, due to the usual positioning of pancreatic tumors, they don’t tend to show many early signs of development. This can make the detection of pancreatic cancer a difficult procedure and the disease can often be missed.
What are the signs and symptoms of this cancer?
As with all complications that occur within the body, the signs and symptoms will vary depending upon the health and body of the individual. Furthermore, as the cancer is very difficult to notice during the early stages of its development and growth, when symptoms do show they can be severe and are often much later on in the growth of the tumor. The table below highlights a few tell-tale signs that people with pancreatic cancer may display.
· Loss of appetite or irregular eating patterns
· Diarrhea and problems with digestion or the passing of waste
· Feelings of nausea – the urge to vomit and be physically sick
· Pain in the abdomen or at the back of the stomach
· Pruritus – the itching of the arms, abdomen or back regions
· Pain in the upper abdomen
· Swelling or enlargement of the gallbladder
· Yellowing of the skin (Jaundice)
· Yellowing of the eye whites
If you are concerned about your risk or the presence of any symptoms listed above, you should contact your health physician for professional screening and testing.