This Morning: Dr Zoe explains symptoms of pancreatic cancer
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When thinking of pancreatic cancer, your mind might travel straight to the top part of your tummy. However, symptoms indicating a spreading tumour might also appear in other locations. Here’s how to spot them.
While pancreatic cancer emerges in the long, flat gland behind the stomach, it can spread to other parts of your body as well.
This type of cancer that has advanced to a different location is known as advanced pancreatic cancer, according to Cancer Research UK.
The telltale signs of this tumour spread can be exactly the same as pancreatic cancer that hasn’t advanced.
However, they can also include other symptoms depending on where the disease travelled. One sign of a spreading tumour in your bones is pain.
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This pain is characterised by being continuous and it’s often described as “gnawing”, according to the charity.
These bone aches are triggered by the breakdown of the living tissues that make up your skeleton.
One specific area that can take the hit is your back. Cancerous backache persists even when you rest, Cancer Research UK explains.
What’s more, back pain isn’t only linked to advanced pancreatic cancer as the NHS notes that this symptom can appear during the stage when the tumours haven’t spread.
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The health service notes that this back pain can feel worse when you’re eating or lying down while it can be eased be leaning forward.
Apart from gnawing pain in your bones, other signs of a spreading tumour include:
- Weaker bones that can break more easily
- Raised blood calcium (hypercalcaemia), which can cause dehydration, confusion, sickness, tummy (abdominal) pain and constipation
- Low levels of blood cells – blood cells are made in the bone marrow and can be crowded out by the cancer cells, causing anaemia, increased risk of infection, bruising and bleeding.
The charity recommends speaking to your doctor if you experience persistent symptoms like these.
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While these signs don’t guarantee that you have pancreatic cancer, it’s important to get them checked.
Cancer Research UK explains: “It might not mean that you have advanced cancer if you have the symptoms described below.
“They can be caused by other conditions.”
While it’s important to identify spreading tumours, there are also earlier signs of pancreatic cancer worth knowing.
According to the NHS, the symptoms to be aware of include:
- The whites of your eyes or your skin turning yellow (jaundice), you may also have itchy skin, darker pee and paler poo than usual
- Loss of appetite or losing weight without trying to
- Feeling tired or having no energy
- High temperature, or feeling hot or shivery
- Nausea or vomiting
- Diarrhoea or constipation, or other changes in your poo
- Pain at the top part of your tummy
- Symptoms of indigestion, such as feeling bloated.
The health service notes that pancreatic cancer sometimes doesn’t show any symptoms at all, or they might be “hard to spot”.
Similarly to advanced pancreatic cancer, if you do spot any signs, get checked by your GP.
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