The pancreas is a long, flat organ located deep in the abdomen that has many important functions, including producing insulin to keep blood sugar levels stable. But when the word “pancreas” comes to mind, the first thing that comes to mind is cancer, especially after news broke of Alex Trebek’s recent diagnosis and death.
One of the things that make pancreatic cancer so scary is that it is the deadliest cancer with a 5-year survival rate. Typically, only three percent of people with metastatic pancreatic cancer or stage IV pancreatic cancer are alive five years after diagnosis.
There are currently no routine screening tests for pancreatic cancer, and there are no clear signs that indicate your pancreas is unhealthy, so it’s difficult to know if your body is fermenting. “One of the reasons for the low survival rate is that pancreatic cancer is so difficult to detect early,” said Andrew Hendivar, MD, director of pancreatic cancer research at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles.
But other things in the pancreas can go wrong, such as pancreatitis (which means inflammation of the organ). Because they don’t always have specific symptoms, early detection of these non-cancerous conditions can also be difficult, explains Ted Eberly, MD, director of Idaho Family Medicine. But sometimes the pancreas indicates that there is something to pay attention to.
Dr. Eberle and Dr. Hendivar say there are some warning signs you should call your doctor if something is wrong with your pancreas. Here are 5 of them.