The pancreas is an important organ in our body that helps produce enzymes for the digestion of food in the small intestine and releases insulin and glucagon to maintain blood sugar levels. Unfortunately, when cells in the pancreas begin to multiply uncontrollably, it can lead to pancreatic cancer, which is the fourth leading cause of cancer death in both men and women. According to Cancer.Net, more than 4.5 lakh people worldwide were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2020.
The most challenging aspect of the disease is that it often doesn’t cause any noticeable symptoms until the disease has advanced or spread to other parts of the body. However, there is one sign that could affect your skin and show up, particularly on your face. Here’s what to know.
Yellowing Of The Skin Can Be A Sign Of Pancreatic Cancer
In an interaction with the OnlyMyHealth team, Dr Arun Kumar Giri, Director-Surgical Oncology, Aakash Healthcare, New Delhi, said, “The skin, being the body’s largest organ, can serve as a reflection of internal health. In the case of pancreatic cancer, changes in the skin can be particularly noticeable, with the face often bearing the brunt of these alterations.”
According to the doctor, jaundice, or yellowing of the skin and eyes, is a common indication of pancreatic cancer. This yellow hue results from the buildup of bilirubin, a yellow pigment produced during the breakdown of red blood cells, he explained, adding that pancreatic cancer can obstruct the bile duct, preventing the normal flow of bile from the liver to the intestines.
As a consequence, bilirubin accumulates in the bloodstream, leading to jaundice. It may start in the eyes but is often most evident on the face.
Other Pancreatic Cancer Symptoms
Besides jaundice, there are other symptoms that may indicate pancreatic cancer. These include:
- Darkening of the urine and stool
- Pain in the upper abdomen, back, or arms
- Swelling of the arms or legs
- Gastrointestinal discomforts and bloating
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Fever, chills, and sweating
- Unexplained weight loss
Diagnosis And Treatment
It is important to understand that yellowing of the skin or developing jaundice does not necessarily mean pancreatic cancer. Many other factors can cause the condition, and therefore, a thorough evaluation must be made before reaching conclusions.
To detect pancreatic cancer early, Dr Giri recommended getting a combination of imaging tests, blood tests, and sometimes a biopsy.
He said, “Imaging techniques such as CT scans and MRIs help visualise the pancreas and surrounding structures, while blood tests can detect elevated levels of certain substances associated with pancreatic cancer.”
He added, “Treatment options for pancreatic cancer depend on the stage of the disease and may include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.”
In cases where the cancer is detected at an advanced stage, management may focus on palliative care to alleviate symptoms and improve the patient’s quality of life, the doctor noted.