Written By Melanie Haiken
The average general health article on pancreatic cancer states flatly that this type of cancer shows no early symptoms. Most people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer are already in the advanced stage of the disease by the time it’s caught, and the typical prognosis is death within five years. Only 4 percent of pancreatic cancer patients live beyond five years.
In recent years, pancreatic cancer has claimed the lives of numerous celebrities and public figures, including Steve Jobs, actor Patrick Swayze, and actress Bonnie Franklin, leading many people to ask the key question, “Are there any early warning signs of pancreatic cancer?”
The answer is yes, there are. But to understand these signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer, it’s important to understand where the pancreas is, and what it does.
Located deep inside the abdomen, the pancreas is only 4 to 6 inches long and shaped like a tadpole. In the “tail” of the pancreas are cells that produce insulin, and tumors at this end are usually endocrine tumors. They’re easier to diagnose, but are much rarer. At the other end, the “head” of the pancreas, are cells that produce digestive enzymes, and tumors at this end are called exocrine tumors. These are by far the most common, and are much more difficult to detect.