Out of the Pink and into the Purple

Updated: Nov 24, 2021

November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month (and Movember, there's cancer EVERYWHERE)

Pancreatic cancer is one of the most lethal diseases, despite the development of medical technology, including surgical skills and anticancer drugs. It is difficult to detect through clinical examination, recent studies have reported that some pancreatic cancers have hereditary factors and germline variants, especially in DNA repair genes. PALB2 (Partner And Localizer of BRCA2) binds to and colocalizes with BRCA2 in DNA repair. Germline mutations in PALB2 have been identified in approximately 3–4% of familial pancreatic cancer cases.


So what do I know about the pancreas.

Before today I knew ... my pancreas probably does something and it's located somewhere in my stomach region.

What do you know?


The pancreas is a gland, about six inches long, located in the abdomen. It is shaped like a flat pear and is surrounded by the stomach, small intestine, liver, spleen and gallbladder. The wide end of the pancreas on the right side of the body is called the head. The middle sections are the neck and body. The thin end of the pancreas on the left side of the body is called the tail. The uncinate process is the part of the gland that bends backwards and underneath the head of the pancreas. Two very important blood vessels, the superior mesenteric artery and superior mesenteric vein, cross behind the neck of the pancreas and in front of the uncinate process. The pancreas is both an exocrine gland and endocrine gland and has two main functions – digestion and blood sugar regulation.


Signs of pancreatic cancer

Loss of Appetite

Loss of appetite is an early warning sign for many conditions, and pancreatic cancer is no different. In addition to not feeling hungry, people with pancreatic cancer may feel full after only a few bites of food. If the loss of appetite lasts and there is no other explanation, see a doctor.

Fatigue

Extreme lethargy is another symptom of pancreatic cancer. However, fatigue has a variety of causes, and pancreatic cancer is only one of them. Anytime a part of the body is not working properly, it can cause other parts of the body to overcompensate, creating fatigue. If a person experiences other potential symptoms of pancreatic cancer combined with fatigue, they should seek medical advice

Abdominal Pain

Abdominal pain can be caused by an injury or lying in bed the wrong way too many nights in a row. The pain associated with pancreatic cancer may occur anywhere in the abdominal region but is often focused at the mid-portion of the abdomen. It may be vague at first, but as cancer progresses, the pain can begin to radiate to the back.

Changes in Bowel Movements

Sometimes pancreatic cancer prevents digestive enzymes from reaching the intestines due to blockages from tumors. This makes it difficult for the body to digest foods high in fat. The result is odd-smelling bowel movements pale in color, with a tendency to float. Blood in the intestines can also create dark stool.

Weight Loss

When your body does not have enough pancreatic enzymes, it may allow fat in the food you eat to pass through the body as waste, without adequate digestion. The pancreas not functioning as it is meant to can explain the unexpected weight loss many people with pancreatic cancer experience. However, there are numerous other reasons a person might lose weight without trying.

Symptoms of Diabetes

Extensive research shows a good percentage of people with pancreatic cancer had diabetes for about one to three years before showing visible symptoms of cancer. In those over the age of 50, new-onset symptoms of diabetes may be an early sign of pancreatic cancer. While cancer does not lead to or occur due to diabetes directly, it is possible to experience symptoms of diabetes at the early stages of the condition, in part because the pancreas is responsible for producing insulin.

Jaundice

When tumors begin to grow in the pancreas, they can cause blockages. Any size of growth can cause a blockage in the head of the pancreas that can result in a build-up of bile, leading to jaundice. This yellowing of the skin can range from a tint that is hardly detectable to a distinctive hue. The yellowing is also visible in the eyes and nails.

Itchy Skin

Itchy skin can be an early warning sign of pancreatic cancer, regardless of severity. Chemicals released by the bile that builds up from pancreatic cancer can cause the symptom, which can become quite intense. Of course, there can be many different causes of itchy skin, including switching laundry detergent or an allergic reaction to a particular food.

Enlarged Gallbladder

When the bile duct becomes enlarged, it creates a build-up of bile that causes jaundice. This build-up can also cause an enlarged gallbladder. Often, this is the reason an individual first seeks medical advice for what is later diagnosed as pancreatic cancer. Imaging tests can show doctors the state of the gallbladder. A physician can also sometimes identify this abnormality through probing during a regular physical exam. An enlarged gallbladder is not always related to or caused by pancreatic cancer.

Changes in Taste

One of the strangest symptoms of pancreatic cancer is a change in taste. This symptom especially affects the taste of tobacco and alcoholic beverages. People with pancreatic cancer who have smoked for twenty years can sometimes no longer stand to be in the same room with other individuals who are smoking, much less take a draw from a cigarette. Changes in the taste of food can also occur. The reason for this symptom continues to mystify researchers, but it can play a role in weight loss symptoms, as well.

So now I know, and now you know, and I'm glad my mom had breast cancer not pancreatic cancer cause I don't think there are preventative measures for pancreatic cancer the same way there is a prophylactic mastectomy. You CAN live without a pancreas but I'll get into that another day.

For today, no surgeries, of any kind, still waiting. Talked to the surgeon's secretary yesterday (I called, of course I did, impatience got the best of me) Jessica (secretary is delightful) they only get OR times for every two weeks at a time. So currently they are only booking up until November 20th, so I can safely say I'll have my killer knockers at least two more weeks.


People say I'm doing so well, and I handle this so well.

But like what's the alternative?

Sometimes I feel like I'm not being mindful, and so I try and live in the moment, which has resulted in a lot of drawing and colouring and reading and researching. But then to do this I'm leaving things like folding laundry, and cleaning the bathroom, and I think OK well I could just do art like twice a week, then I question why the first thing I'm going to give up is my self care. But I'm self-aware, I know there's a hydro bill I need to send to my tenant, I know the bathtub needs to be cleaned, I know we need to contact ODSP about why $300 per month is there idea of a livable amount for someone whose partner comes home with $1700 after taxes per month working full time. I know I need to claim my last optometrist visit, and book a chiro visit, but I am procrastinating, and drawing and doing lego and wondering if I need to make a "living will" or what one even is...


I just feel so overwhelmed, and around some of my friends I feel like such a loser and complainer, then I don't want to complain cause I feel like the issues in my life keep coming for the last 4 years.

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