Itching can be an “early” sign of pancreatic cancer – it affects 75% of patients
Unfortunately, thousands of people receive the frightening news every year about being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the UK. With the lowest survival rates, failure to respond to initial signs may contribute to these dismal statistics. Luckily, itching can help alert you to a deadly condition relatively “early”.
Pancreatic cancer is often hesitant to trigger warning signs until the tumor is large enough, but Dr. Deborah Lee of Dr Fox online pharmacy shared one warning sign that could be alarming.
Depending on the location of the cancer, one of the “early” warning signs may be itching.
Itching, or pruritus, describes skin that tingles with an irresistible urge to scratch it.
Dr. Li said, “Whether itching is an early or late sign of pancreatic cancer depends on where the tumor develops.”
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If the fearful condition begins in the tail of the pancreas, itching may appear later in the illness.
However, in 65 percent of pancreatic cancers, the disease begins in the head of the pancreas, so itching can occur relatively early.
“When pancreatic cancer starts in the head of the pancreas, it is more likely to compress the bile ducts at an early stage, blocking the passage of bile to the intestine and causing jaundice with itching,” the doctor said.
When it comes to detecting cancer, the itching, according to the expert, will be constant and involve the entire skin.
What’s more, itching is a “common” symptom of pancreatic cancer that affects 80 to 100 percent of patients with jaundice.
According to the NHS, jaundice describes how your skin and the whites of your eyes turn yellow.
Dr. Lee said: “Skin discoloration is due to the accumulation of the bile pigment bilirubin.
“[This] usually excreted in the intestines, but because the cancer blocks the passage, bilirubin accumulates in the bloodstream and is deposited in the skin.”
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According to a study published in the Official Journal of the International Association of the Hepatopancreatobiliary System, this characteristic sign of pancreatic cancer, accompanied by itching, occurs in approximately 75% of patients.
While itching alone does not necessarily indicate cancer, there are other accompanying signs that can help identify a deadly condition.
Patients with pancreatic cancer develop itching with jaundice and signs of hitting the toilet.
Dr Lee said: “Patients notice that their stools become pale and their urine is darker in color – like a pint of Guinness.
“Stalas can look greasy and float in the toilet and are difficult to flush.
“If you notice that your skin is turning yellow, your stools are pale, and your urine is dark, you should contact your GP immediately.”
According to the NHS, other major symptoms of pancreatic cancer to be aware of include:
- Loss of appetite or weight loss without trying
- Feeling tired or lack of energy
- High fever or feeling hot or chilly
- feeling or sickness
- Diarrhea or constipation or other changes in stool
- Pain in the upper abdomen and back (may get worse when you eat or lie down and get better when you lean forward)
- Symptoms of indigestion (such as feeling bloated).
The Health Service recommends that you see your GP if you suffer from persistent symptoms of pancreatic cancer.
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