Your pancreas is a long, flat organ located deep in your abdomen that has many important functions, including producing insulin to keep your blood sugar levels stable. But when the word “pancreas” comes to mind, the first thing that comes to mind is cancer, especially since news of Alex Trebek’s diagnosis and death recently broke.
One thing that makes pancreatic cancer scary is that it is the deadliest form of cancer with a 5-year survival rate. Typically, only three percent of people diagnosed with metastatic or stage 4 pancreatic cancer are alive five years after diagnosis.
Currently, there are no routine screening tests for pancreatic cancer, and there are no obvious signs that your pancreas is unhealthy, so it’s hard to know if your body is fermenting. “One of the reasons survival rates are so low is that pancreatic cancer is difficult to detect early,” said Andrew Hendifar, M.D., director of pancreatic oncology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
But other things can go wrong with your pancreas, such as various forms of pancreatitis (which means inflammation of the organ). Because they don’t always have very specific symptoms, early detection of these non-cancerous problems is also difficult, explains Ted Epperly, president of Idaho Family Medicine Residency. But sometimes the pancreas is a sign that there is something you need to pay attention to.
Dr. Epperly and Dr. Hendifar say there are a few warning signs that should prompt you to call your doctor if something is wrong with your pancreas. Here are 5 of them.