You’ve surely heard of the pancreas before. You may even know it has something to do with blood sugar and that people can get pancreatic cancer.
However, if you’re like most folks that’s likely where your knowledge of this hardworking organ ends. And if you never have any pancreas problems that may seem like all you’ll ever need to know.
But the truth is not knowing more could be downright dangerous, because pancreatic cancer is a killer, with a terrifyingly poor five year survival rate. And one of the reasons that survival rate is so abysmal is because the cancer is notoriously difficult to detect and diagnose.
In fact, your pancreas could be in trouble right now and if you don’t know the warning signs to look for you’d never know. Today we’re going to go over five warning signs that your pancreas could be in trouble you should never ignore.
But first let’s take a quick tour of your pancreas.
Your pancreas is located deep inside your abdomen. It’s typically about six inches long and shaped like a small banana. The organ is responsible for producing the insulin that regulates your blood sugar, which is the job that most of us are familiar with. But your pancreas’ duties don’t end there, it also produces important digestive enzymes.
Don’t ignore these pancreatic cancer red flags
If you know anything about pancreatic cancer you’ve probably heard that there are no symptoms. But the truth is there are some warning signs that many folks who have had the cancer report having experienced. They simply didn’t recognize them as red flags at the time.
Alone each of these potential trouble signals may be nothing to worry about, but when they cluster together it’s time to take them seriously and get to the doctor.
Red flag #1: Pale smelly poop
It’s time to talk poop. I get it, “bathroom talk” is always a bit uncomfortable. But in this case it could literally be a matter of life or death.
Pancreatic tumors can sometimes suppress the production of digestive enzymes, or even block them from getting to your intestine altogether, making it difficult for your body to digest fatty foods. When this happens your stool becomes pale in color, smellier than normal and it will tend to float on the water. You may also notice an oily sheen in the toilet.
Keep in mind we all have a funky bowel movement from time to time. (Try our “What does your poop say about you?” quiz to find out if yours is normal.) So there’s no need to panic if you notice a change in your poop. But do keep an eye on it. If you see a pattern, and notice other pancreatic cancer red flags showing up too, give your doc a call.
Red flag #2: A recent diabetes diagnosis
Thousands of people are diagnosed every day with diabetes. And of course not all of those folks will get pancreatic cancer. In fact the majority of people won’t, so there’s no need to be alarmed yet.
But 40 percent of people with pancreatic cancer were diagnosed with diabetes in the year or two before the cancer reared its ugly head, according to a study published in the journal Gastroenterology. So if you’ve been recently diagnosed—especially if the diagnosis was a surprise and seemed to “come out of nowhere,”—pay close attention for the appearance of any other pancreatic cancer red flags.
Red flag #3: Yellowing of whites of the eyes and skin
Tumors can block off the bile duct, which is located at the head of your pancreas. When this happens bilirubin builds up in your bloodstream causing the whites of your eyes and skin to take on a yellowish cast, a condition known as jaundice.
Itchy skin, especially on your palms or the soles of your feet, is another surprising sign of jaundice that often gets overlooked. If you notice any yellowing make an appointment to see your doctor as soon as possible.
Red flag #4: Achy insides
If you’ve start experiencing a deep gnawing type of ache in your midsection, which may move to your back over time, it could be a sign of pancreatic cancer. Because this symptom isn’t a sharp or stabbing pain, like is seen with pancreatitis, it often gets overlooked or misdiagnosed as acid reflux, gas or even a muscle pull.
Keep in mind that stomach aches or pains are not uncommon, so there’s no reason for alarm if you have some belly pain. But if you do have a persistent ache—one that may go away temporarily when you lean forward—it’s worth having a talk with your doctor about it. This is especially true if you have ANY of the other red flag warning signs on this list.
Red flag #5: Sudden weight loss
If you find yourself suddenly losing weight without even trying it could be a sign that you’re having digestive issues caused by a problem with your pancreas. Since pancreatic tumors can suppress or block digestive enzymes if you experience sudden weight loss combined with any other symptom on this list you should have it checked out.
You’re your own best defense against cancer. So keep your eyes open for any of these warning signs of a pancreas problem. And be sure to share this important information with your friends and family. You could end up saving a loved one’s life.
She is an advocate of self-education and is passionate about the power of group knowledge sharing, like the kind found right here on HealthierTalk.com. Alice loves to share her views on holistic and natural healing as well as her, sometimes contentious, thoughts on the profit-driven inner workings of traditional medicine.
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