Pancreatic cancer doesn’t cause many symptoms in the early stages – a person may just have a bit of discomfort in their upper abdomen or a dull backache. While it’s the 11th most common cancer in the UK, it’s important to recognise symptoms of the condition, because like all cancers, there’s currently no cure.
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A person’s toilet habits can signal a myriad of health conditions, including pancreatic cancer.
And two signs you may want to look out for are light-coloured stools and dark-coloured urine.
The NHS says these two symptoms can occur as a result of jaundice, a condition which primarily causes yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes.
American Cancer Society explains the link between jaundice and pancreatic cancer: “Jaundice is yellowing of the eyes and skin. Most people with pancreatic cancer (and nearly all people with ampullary cancer) will have jaundice as one of their first symptoms.
“Jaundice is caused by the buildup of bilirubin, a dark yellow-brown substance made in the liver. Normally, the liver releases a liquid called bile that contains bilirubin.
“Bile goes through the common bile duct into the intestines, where it helps break down fats. It eventually leaves the body in the stool.
“When the common bile duct becomes blocked, bile can’t reach the intestines, and the amount of bilirubin in the body builds up.
“Cancers that start in the head of the pancreas are near the common bile duct.
“These cancers can press on the duct and cause jaundice while they are still fairly small, which can sometimes lead to these tumours being found at an early stage.”
Dark-coloured pee is characterised as dark yellow or orange pee.
Stools may be light-coloured or grey, and if bile and pancreatic enzymes can’t get through to the intestines to help break down fats, the stools can become greasy and might float in the toilet.
But it’s important to remember these symptoms can be caused by many different conditions and not just cancer.
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Jaundice can also be caused by gallstones, alcoholic liver disease, pancreatitis, hepatitis and sickle cell disease.
Other symptoms of pancreatic cancer
Another early sign of pancreatic cancer to be wary is unexpected weight loss, according to the NHS.
But other possible symptoms may include:
- Feeling sick and being sick
- Changes in bowel movements (diarrhoea or constipation)
- Fever and shivering
- Blood clots
The health body further warns: “You should contact a GP if you’re concerned or these symptoms start suddenly.
“You may also develop symptoms of diabetes if you have pancreatic cancer. This is because the tumour can stop the pancreas producing insulin as it normally would.”
You can reduce your risk of pancreatic cancer by making some simple lifestyle changes.
These include stopping smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, and choosing a healthy diet.
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