Pancreatic cancer develops when abnormal cells in the pancreas start to divide and grow in an uncontrolled way and forms a growth (tumour). Spotting the warning signs as soon as they appear is key to increasing the chance of survival. Unfortunately, pancreatic cancer may not have any symptoms, or they might be hard to spot.
However, as the cancer advances, you may notice perceptible changes in your bowel habit.
According to UK charity Pancreatic Cancer Action UK, the frequency of your bowel habits can be a major red flag.
The charity notes that “diarrhoea (passing of watery stools more than three times a day)” is a telltale sign.
The health body continues: “Stools can also be large, pale, smelly and float. This is because there is too much fat in the stool as food is not digested properly.”
Other symptoms include:
- The whites of your eyes or your skin turn 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
- A high temperature, or feeling hot or shivery.
It’s important to note that the above symptoms are also associated with less serious conditions.
“If you have another condition like irritable bowel syndrome you may get symptoms like these regularly,” notes the NHS.
In fact, you might find you get used to them, says the health body.
“But it’s important to be checked by a GP if your symptoms change, get worse, or do not feel normal for you.”
Pancreatic cancer – are you at risk?
Anyone can get pancreatic cancer. It’s not always clear what causes it.
Your risk of developing cancer depends on many things including age, genetics, lifestyle and environmental factors. Anything that can increase your risk of cancer is called a risk factor.
Doctors don’t know what causes most pancreatic cancers. But there are some factors that may increase your risk of developing it.
Cancer Research UK explains: “More than 10 in 100 pancreatic cancers in the UK (more than 10 percent) are linked to being overweight or obese.
“This increase in risk could be because the pancreas makes more insulin in overweight people. But we need more research to know for sure.”
This also means people with diabetes have an increased risk of pancreatic cancer, notes the charity.
Other risk factors include:
- Family cancer syndromes and genetic factors
- Smoking and smokeless tobacco