Pancreatic cancer was thrust into the mainstream media buy the late actor Patrick Swayze’s valiant fight with the disease. I have to admit, up to that point, I did not know much about the disease. This little known disease is the fourth deadliest cancer and it affects both mean and women equally. Part of what makes this disease so deadly is that the symptoms can match many other illnesses and by the time pancreatic cancer causes pain or significant issues it can be quite large and has usually spread.
You might be wondering what pancreatic cancer has to do with a blog about IBD. Well, first of all the symptoms can be similar. Pancreatic cancer in it’s earliest stages presents with abdominal pain, nausea, loss of appetite, weight loss, fatigue, weakness, and jaundice or yellowing of the skin or eyes. It may also cause fatty stools.
Recent research has also noted a higher rate of pancreatic cancer in IBD patients than in the general population. While the study does not prove any cause and effect it is theorized that repeated cycles of inflammation in the digestive tract may be what triggers the cancer growth. More studies are needed before recommendations can be made regarding pancreatic cancer screening for individuals with IBD and their family members (1).
Sometimes when you are diagnosed with a gastrointestinal disorder it is commonplace to assume that further symptoms are a result of that disease. That may or may not be true. It is always important to discuss new or bothersome symptoms with your physician. While the symptoms might be a flare up of your IBD they might also be a sign of another issue like pancreatic cancer. Know your body and your disease. If something doesn’t feel quite right or feels distinctly different than your normal IBD symptoms please talk to your doctor. It might just save your life.
Jennifer Rackley is a nutritionist and mother of three girls. Two of her children have dealt with acid reflux disease, food allergies, migraines, and asthma. She has a Bachelor of Science in dietetics from Harding University and has done graduate work in public health and nutrition through Eastern Kentucky University. In addition to writing for HealthCentral, she does patient consults and serves on the Board of Directors for the Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association.