As men and women age, their risk for various diseases increases. Such is the case with pancreatic cancer, which the Cancer Patient Alliance notes is most often diagnosed in adults between the ages of 60 and 80.
Pancreatic cancer is the most aggressive and least funded of the major cancers. In fact, the CPA notes that 80 percent of pancreatic cancer patients are diagnosed with the disease in its terminal stage. And though pancreatic cancer might once have been predominantly associated with men, the CPA notes that the once-significant gap between male and female patients with the disease has narrowed considerably in recent years. Annual estimates from the National Pancreatic Cancer Foundation suggest a roughly 50-50 split in new diagnoses among men and women.
That pancreatic cancer is often diagnosed in its late stages only highlights the importance of learning its potential symptoms. While the NPCF notes that symptoms of pancreatic cancer sometimes do not occur at all, learning the potential symptoms is still vital, as the disease is most treatable when discovered in its early stages.
Symptoms may not appear until pancreatic cancer is in an advanced stage. The NPCF notes that’s one reason why diagnosis tends to be so late and why the disease is so difficult to detect, even in people who take their health very seriously. But men and women who notice any of the following symptoms should bring them to the attention of their physicians immediately.
• Abdominal pain: The CPA notes that a vague mid-abdominal pain is one of the first symptoms of pancreatic cancer.
• Fatigue: Fatigue may be an early symptom of pancreatic cancer, so it’s important that aging men and women do not write off any instances of fatigue as merely a byproduct of getting older. Fatigue is often noticed prior to diagnosis, so taking it seriously is urgent.
• Lower back pain: Over time, pain in the abdomen may move or radiate into the back.
• Yellowing of the skin and of the whites of the eyes
• Loss of appetite
• Significant loss of weight in a 30- to 60-day span
• Digestive issues: The pancreas is part of the digestive system, and the CPA notes that as many as 40 percent of pancreatic cancer patients report nausea and vomiting.
Many of the symptoms noted above may be byproducts of pancreatic cancer treatments, but they also may appear prior to diagnosis. So it’s important that they be treated seriously and reported to a physician immediately.