Pancreatic cancer starts in the cells of the pancreas, a vital organ located behind the stomach. The pancreas plays an important role in digestion as it’s responsible for producing the enzymes the body needs to digest fats, carbohydrates, and proteins.
Due to the location of this organ, pancreatic cancer may be difficult to detect and oftentimes isn’t diagnosed until the more advanced stages. This may also have to do with the fact that the majority of pancreatic cancer patients show only vague symptoms of the disease, meaning most are only diagnosed in the advanced stages when chances of survival are quite low. However, recognizing a combination of these early warning signs can help save your life if you suspect pancreatic cancer…
Jaundice, or the yellowing of the skin and eyes, is common to those suffering from pancreatic cancer. Jaundice develops when there are excessive levels of bilirubin in the bloodstream or when a bile duct in the liver becomes blocked by a tumor. Even though jaundice creates relatively little physical discomfort, it’s important to seek immediate medical attention if it occurs. Jaundice can also be caused by numerous other factors, including infectious diseases and liver problems. Your doctor will likely begin by investigating and ruling out these more common causes before doing any tests for cancer.
One of the major complications of jaundice is inflammation of the pancreas (known clinically as pancreatitis), which can lead to nonspecific but persistent and potentially severe abdominal pain. Your doctor may suspect pancreatic cancer if your jaundice is accompanied by these types of pain symptoms. Sepsis, liver failure, renal failure and problems with blood clotting (coagulation) can also result from extended and severe cases of jaundice.