Pancreatic cancer symptoms: The first ‘noticeable’ sign in the stomach area

Pancreatic cancer is a disease whereby cancerous cells form in the tissues of the pancreas – an organ in your abdomen that lies behind the lower part of your stomach. Unfortunately, pancreatic cancer can be difficult to diagnose in the early stages because it doesn’t usually cause any symptoms.

When symptoms do appear, it’s important to remember that these symptoms can be caused by many different conditions, and aren’t usually the result of cancer, says the NHS.

“But you should contact your GP if you’re concerned, or if these symptoms start suddenly,” advises the health body.

As it explains, one of the first noticeable symptoms of pancreatic cancer is pain in the back or stomach area – which may come and go at first and is often worse when you lie down or after you’ve eaten.

Other signs include:

  • Unexpected weight loss
  • Jaundice – the most obvious sign is yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes; it also causes your urine to be dark yellow or orange and your stools (faeces) to be pale-coloured.

What else could be causing your symptoms?

According to Pancreatic Cancer UK, they can also be caused by conditions such as pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), gallstones, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or hepatitis (inflammation of the liver).

Nonetheless, if you have jaundice, go to your GP or accident and emergency (A&E) without delay, urges the health body.

It adds: “If you have any of the other symptoms, you don’t know why you have them, and they last four weeks or more, go to your GP.”

Am I at risk?

The exact cause of pancreatic cancer isn’t fully understood.

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However, there are a number of risk factors that can increase your chances of developing it.

According to Cancer Research UK, age is a prominent risk factor, with almost half of all new cases are diagnosed in people aged 75 and over.

Pancreatic cancer is uncommon in people under 40 years old, however, reports the charity.

Another risk factor you cannot control for is family history – sometimes pancreatic cancer is found to run in families.

As Cancer Research UK explains, you have an increased risk if you have a first degree relative with pancreatic cancer.

“This risk is higher if you have more than one first degree relative with the disease, or a first degree relative is diagnosed at a young age,” says the charity.

Unhealthy lifestyle habits can also raise your risk of developing pancreatic cancer.

According to Pancreatic Cancer UK, it’s estimated that smoking causes nearly one in three pancreatic cancers in the UK.

“Your risk of pancreatic cancer increases the more you smoke, and the longer you have smoked for,” warns the charity.

Research also shows that being overweight or obese increases the risk of pancreatic cancer.

Around one in eight pancreatic cancers may be linked to being overweight or obese.

Researchers conclude that around one in six pancreatic cancer cases in the UK could be prevented if people maintained healthy weight.

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