The five early warning signs of pancreatic cancer that could save a life – after Jerry Springer died to the ‘silent killer’ just months after being diagnosed
- Talk show host Jerry Springer died at age 79 after battling pancreatic cancer
- The disease has only a 12.5 percent survival rate after five years
- Early signs are easily missed, and there is no standard screening method for it
Talk show host Jerry Springer, 79, died today of pancreatic cancer, a spokesperson confirmed to NBC News. He had only been diagnosed with the condition a few months prior
Talk show legend Jerry Springer has died at age 79 just a few months after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer – one of the most deadly forms of the disease.
Pancreatic cancer has been dubbed a ‘silent killer’ due to how easy it is to overlook the symptoms before it’s too late. While the death rates of many cancers have dramatically decreased over time, the sneaky cancer has continued to kill at an alarming rate.
Part of what makes the disease so deadly is that in most people who are diagnosed, the cancer has already metastasized, or spread. Just 13 percent of cases have stayed confined to their primary site, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
Cancers like this are difficult to catch in the initial stages. Symptoms such as stomach pain and bowel troubles are easily missed or could be attributed to less deadly health problems.
A 2022 survey by the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network found that 83 percent of adults are unaware of the signs of the disease. Though there is no standard screening method for pancreatic cancer, experts have increasingly cautioned that spotting the early symptoms could save a life:
Jaundice, the yellowing of the skin and eyes, is one of the most common first signs of pancreatic cancer.
It’s caused by the buildup a bilirubin, a yellowish-brown substance made by the liver. The liver releases bile, a fluid meant to aid digestion, which contains bilirubin.
In normal liver function, bile moves through ducts into the intestine and helps to break down fats.
However, when bile ducts become blocked, bilirubin builds up, turning the skin and eyes yellow.
This happens because the pancreas is close to body’s common bile duct, so tumors press on the duct, even when they are still small and undetectable on scans.
However, tumors on the lower part of the pancreas don’t press on the duct until they have spread throughout the organ, which happens in later stages of the disease.
Pancreatic cancer can also metastasize to the liver.
Other signs of jaundice include dark urine, light-colored or greasy stools, and itchy skin.
The National Cancer Institute estimates that just over 44 percent of pancreatic cancer patients survive more than five years if the condition is still localized to its original area. However, cases that have spread to other organs have a much lower survival rate
The majority of pancreatic cancer cases are diagnosed once the disease has already spread to multiple other organs. By that point, the condition becomes much more difficult to treat
Cancers that initially form in the body or lower parts of the pancreas can quickly grow large, pressing on nearby organs.
This cancer also presses on the nerves around those organs.
One of the nearby organs is the stomach.
The Pancreatic Action Network estimates that about 70 percent of patients experience this pain at the time of diagnosis.
At first, it may come and go, getting worse as you lie down or eat. As tumors grow, the pain may become more constant and last longer.
Pain may also radiate from the stomach to the back.
This pain is most often localized to the mid-back, or just below the shoulder blades.
It may also reach the shoulders.
Similar to stomach pain, this is most common when tumors are found in the tail of the pancreas, or the lowest part.
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This pain also tends to worsen when lying down or just after eating, like stomach pain.
Sudden weight Loss
People with pancreatic cancer may have little to no appetite.
The lack of appetite may be caused by a lack of functional pancreatic enzymes, which help break down fats, carbohydrates, and proteins.
This can cause unintentional weight loss, which if often an indication in general that something is medically wrong.
Malignant cells can also sap the body’s nutrients, which means a patient needs more calories. If the patient isn’t getting a necessary amount of calories, they’re more likely to lose weight.
Unusual changes in bowel movements could be a sign of pancreatic cancer.
While this happens after any sudden dietary changes, such as adding foods like broccoli, beans, and lentils into your diet, floating stools could be linked to a lack of bile.
The liver makes this to filter waste such as toxins and excessive cholesterol.
Not enough bile in stool could be an indication of bile acid malabsorption. When bile isn’t properly absorbed, it causes chemical imbalances.
If a tumor blocks the pancreatic duct, insufficient nutrients from the pancreas could lead to poor absorption and diarrhea since undigested food passes through the digestive tract too quickly.
This results in the stool having too much fat, causing it to float or appear greasy or pale.
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