Cancer is a serious condition whereby cells in a specific part of the body grow and reproduce uncontrollably. The cancerous cells can invade and destroy surrounding healthy tissue, including organs. When this destructive process takes place in the top part of your tummy, it is known as pancreatic cancer.
Like all cancers, it is imperative to respond to the warning signs of pancreatic cancer as soon as they appear to improve treatment outcomes.
Unfortunately, pancreatic cancer may not have any symptoms, or they might be hard to spot, notes the NHS.
However, if symptoms do surface, they may take the form of changes to your poo.
According to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PCAN) foul-smelling poo can be a warning sign of the deadly disease.
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This can be caused by insufficient amounts of pancreatic enzymes in the intestines, explains PCAN.
“This leads to malabsorption as undigested food passes quickly through the digestive tract,” says the health body.
“If the digestive system works too slowly, it can cause stools to become dry, hard and difficult to pass.”
General 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.
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How to respond
According to the NHS, you should see a GP if you have:
- Lost a noticeable amount of weight over the last six to 12 months without trying
- other symptoms of pancreatic cancer that get worse or do not get better after two weeks
- A condition that causes symptoms with your digestion that are not getting better after two weeks of using your usual treatments.
“Many of these symptoms are very common and can be caused by many different conditions,” notes the health body.
But it’s important to get them checked by a GP.
“This is because if they’re caused by cancer, finding it early makes it more treatable,” explains the NHS.
“Almost half of all new cases are diagnosed in people aged 75 and over,” reports Cancer Research UK.
According to the charity, around 20 out of 100 cases of pancreatic cancer in the UK (around 20 percent) are caused by smoking.
“Cigarettes, cigars, pipes and chewing tobacco all increase pancreatic cancer risk,” it warns.
Other risk factors include:
- Being overweight or obese
- Family cancer syndromes and genetic factors
- Other medical conditions.