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Pancreatic cancer affects your pancreas, a gland in the abdomen that aids in digestion. This cancer is mostly diagnosed in the last stages when the symptoms become critical. It is usually quiet at its initial stages, which poses a challenge for its timely management and treatment. Although symptoms like abdominal pain and weight loss are considered some of the common signs of pancreatic cancer, one should also carefully watch out for uncommon indicators that may help with timely diagnosis and treatment.
In an exclusive interaction with TheHealthSite.com, Dr Ashutosh Mohapatra MD, DM (Gastroenterology)Senior Consultant Gastroenterology, AMRI Hospital, Bhubaneswar, shared some of the most ignored, and unusual signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer. Scroll down to know more.
Never ignore these 6 signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer:
The colour of our stool is mostly determined by a pigment called bilirubin. The obstructed common bile duct could result in the accumulation of bilirubin that cannot access the intestines. Such a condition results in abnormally pale stool might be an indication of pancreatic cancer.
When pancreatic cancer blocks the common bile duct, it can elevate bilirubin levels in the body. This can result in dark urine, and it can also lead to itchy skin. Such symptoms often signal issues in the pancreas.
One might experience pain in the upper abdomen that may spread to the back, which is often a characteristic of pancreatic cancer. The pain is uncomfortable and fails to respond to standard relief options.
Jaundice manifests itself in the yellowing of the skin and eyes. It may occur due to a blockage in a biliary duct and could be related to a case of pancreatic cancer. Jaundice should be taken seriously when it suddenly appears without any known causes. It is important to consult a qualified healthcare provider for evaluation.
Pancreatic cancer may also, at times, result in blood clotting. These clots can lead to discomfort in one's arm or leg. It may be an uncommon sign, but it must also never be overlooked, especially if there are additional warning signs.
Pancreatic cancer may affect the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, leading to the beginning of diabetes. The presence of the disease without reasons like family inheritance and lifestyle can point a finger toward your pancreas. Such situations require regular monitoring and medical examination.
If you are experiencing any unusual symptoms of pancreatic cancer, then it is important to get the diagnosis done. There are some diagnostic procedures available that help in accurate and timely diagnosis and management.
ERCP is a minimally invasive procedure that combines endoscopy and X-ray imaging to diagnose and treat pancreatic cancer. It involves the insertion of a flexible tube with a camera (an endoscope) through the mouth and into the small intestine. During the procedure, a dye is injected into the pancreas, allowing for the visualization of any blockages or abnormalities. It can also obtain tissue samples for biopsy to confirm the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.
EUS is another minimally invasive procedure that uses an endoscope with an ultrasound probe attached to it. This allows for detailed imaging of the pancreas and surrounding structures, providing valuable information about the size, location, and extent of the tumor. EUS can help determine if the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes or blood vessels, prevent in advancement of the disease.
Additionally, EUS-guided fine-needle aspiration (FNA) can be performed during the procedure to obtain tissue samples for biopsy. This helps in confirming the diagnosis and guiding treatment decisions.
ERCP and EUS are often used together in the diagnosis and management of pancreatic cancer. While ERCP focuses on the visualization and intervention of the bile ducts, EUS provides detailed imaging of the pancreas itself. The combination of these procedures allows for a comprehensive evaluation of the tumor, its stage, and the potential involvement of adjacent structures. This information is crucial for determining the most appropriate treatment approach, whether it involves surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or a combination of these modalities. It is important that the patient pay close attention to the symptoms and seek treatment as soon as they become visible. Identifying the early symptoms of pancreatic cancer can increase the chances of recovery as the treatment becomes more effective.