Pancreatic cancer is so difficult to treat in large part because it often isn’t discovered until the disease has spread to other parts of the body. That’s because in many cases there are no signs or symptoms until the cancer has reached an advanced stage. Even when there are early signs and symptoms, they are often vague, so patients tend to ignore them or doctors attribute them to another disease. For these reasons, pancreatic cancer is often known as a silent killer.
“There is not a single (symptom) that lets you home in specifically on pancreatic cancer,” says Dr. Brian Wolpin, director of the Lustgarten Foundation Pancreatic Cancer Research Laboratory at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. “They tend to occur later in the disease course, so for most people a small tumor will not be symptomatic. Symptoms develop later, when the tumor is larger or has spread.”
Even when symptoms do develop, “they are not a very good way to find the disease,” he says, because they may be confusing to patients and doctors. The symptoms also vary depending on where the tumor is located in the pancreas, which consists of a head, body and tail.
According to the Lustgarten Foundation, the signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer that need to be taken seriously include:
Jaundice (with or without itching), dark urine or light-colored stool.
General symptoms such as back pain, fatigue or weakness.
Other illnesses, including pancreatitis and new-onset diabetes in an adult.
Digestive problems, such as unexplained weight loss, loss of appetite, malnutrition, nausea or vomiting and abdominal pain.
Blood clots, which may cause pain, swelling, redness and warmth in the leg, chest pain or trouble breathing.
Pancreatic Cancer Symptoms to Take Seriously
Jaundice causes a yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes. Jaundice may also cause signs and symptoms such as itching (which may be severe), dark urine and light or clay-colored stool. Pancreatic cancer can lead to jaundice when a tumor blocks the bile duct. Bile, produced in the liver to aid digestion, contains a dark yellow substance called bilirubin. If the bile is blocked, it accumulates in the blood, skin and other tissues, causing jaundice.
“The main symptom is abdominal discomfort,” Wolpin says. “That sometimes radiates into the back because the pancreas is in the back of the abdomen.” The pain may be constant or occasional and can worsen after eating or when lying down. Of course, many conditions other than pancreatic cancer can also cause abdominal or back pain, which makes this a challenging symptom to attribute to pancreatic cancer.
Pancreatic cancer may cause digestive problems and weight loss. When pancreatic enzymes cannot be released into the intestine, digesting food, especially high-fat foods, may be difficult. Over time, significant weight loss and malnutrition may result. If the tumor blocks the upper part of the small intestine, that can lead to nausea and vomiting.
Pancreatitis, which is an inflammation of the pancreas, can be a sign of pancreatic cancer if the condition is chronic or when it appears for the first time and is not related to either drinking alcohol or gallstones.
Developing diabetes mellitus (high blood sugar), especially after the age of 50, can be a sign of pancreatic cancer, Wolpin says. “The cancer seems to cause diabetes in some cases, so a new onset of diabetes, particularly later in life and with weight loss, is a sign. That being said, most people with diabetes do not get pancreatic cancer.”
Pancreatic cancer can cause blood to clot more easily. The clots can block blood flow in the legs, lungs or other organs such as the pancreas itself or liver.
While many other illnesses can cause these signs and symptoms, it is important to take them seriously and see your doctor as soon as possible.
Knowledge of Pancreatic Cancer Is Key
With so few advanced warnings, how can people stay vigilant about the potential for pancreatic cancer?
“Knowledge of the disease is the key,” says Dr. Victoria Manax, chief medical officer of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. She recommends knowing the risk factors associated with the disease, including smoking, obesity and a history of chronic pancreatitis. “There are also hereditary factors that may come into play. If you have a relative or relatives that have been diagnosed with the disease, you may be at an increased risk,” Manax says. “Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and being aware of your own risk factors is important.”
You should always see a doctor if you have any signs or symptoms that worry you or are persistent, Manax says. The doctor can perform tests and procedures to help investigate what may be the cause. “If you have certain risk factors, you may also want to see a pancreatic specialist early on,” she says. “You are your own best advocate.”
Pets are one of life’s great joys. According to the National Institutes of Health, some 68 percent of American households have a pet, and their benefits are countless, from getting active to boosting mood. But as wonderful as our furry (or scaly, or feathered) friends are, there are certain health risks that come with having an animal in your home.
“Zoonotic diseases (zoonoses) are those that can be transmitted between animals and people,” explains Christa Gallagher, BSC, DVM, an assistant professor of public health and epidemiology at Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine. “Animals, whether wild or domesticated, can transmit harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungi to humans.”
“Toxoplasmosis (Toxoplasma Gondii) is a parasitic infection in which cats are the main source of infection,” explains Dr. Gallagher. While healthy people don’t typically contract the disease, it can cause serious health complications for pregnant women and immunocompromised people. Be sure to change the cat litter frequently (once a day if anyone has a weakened immune system in the house), and thoroughly wash your hands afterward. Pregnant women should avoid changing the cat litter altogether. Keeping your cat indoors will also help prevent them from contracting it.
Symptoms in pets: Cats don’t typically show symptoms of toxoplasmosis. Kittens, who are more vulnerable, may get diarrhea.
While it’s unlikely that you’ll contract rabies from your pet (it’s most commonly contracted from wild animals like raccoons and bats), it’s within the realm of possibility since it is transmitted through the saliva of an infected animal. “The disease is most commonly contracted through a bite, although potentially it could be transmitted through a scratch as well,” says Gary Richter, MS, DVM, a veterinary health expert with Rover.com. “Although human exposure to rabies from a dog is uncommon, it’s worth noting since rabies is almost 100 percent fatal if the person is not treated immediately after exposure.” The best way to prevent it is to keep your pet up-to-date with their vaccines.
Symptoms in pets: Foaming at the mouth is the most common sign of rabies, but other symptoms could include behavioral changes, fever, hypersensitivity to touch, light, and sound, hiding in dark places, staggering, loss of appetite, and seizures.
You’re probably aware that you can get salmonella from raw or undercooked poultry, but did you know you can get it from your pets? “This infection can also be caused by the bacteria that live on the skin of pet reptiles,” warns Tsippora Shainhouse, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist in Los Angeles. Jory D. Lange Jr, a food safety lawyer, also says they have seen cases of pet hedgehogs, backyard chickens, and dog food causing salmonella outbreaks.
To avoid it, wash your hands well after handling reptiles, especially after feeding them. Be sure to also clean pet toys and bedding outside.
Symptoms in pets: Reptiles don’t typically present with symptoms of salmonella, says Dr. Shainhouse.
“Leptospirosis is a bacteria that is shed in the urine of infected animals. Our pets can contract this infection from ground water that is contaminated by infected wildlife. Though this infection does require contact with infected urine, it’s much easier than you may think to inadvertently come in contact with your pet’s urine,” says Johanna Reel, NHV Natural Pet’s in-house registered veterinary technician. Get your pet vaccinated against the disease, and don’t swim in water that may be contaminated with animal urine.
Symptoms in pets: Some animals won’t show signs of leptospirosis, while others may have fever, vomiting, diarrhea, refusal to eat, depression, infertility, and other symptoms.
Most commonly contracted from the feces of dogs but sometimes from cats, toxocariasis is a parasitic disease from the larvae of toxocara roundworms. Dr. Shainhouse says, “Be careful to use gloves or a plastic bag or shovel to clean up doggy poop, and wash your hands well afterward.”
Symptoms in pets: Diarrhea, vomiting, bloody stool, worms seen in the stool
“While you can contract this by eating undercooked pork, you can also contract this from an infected pet,” explains Dr. Shainhouse. It is contracted via oral-fecal transmission through direct contact with pet stool (which is more common than you may think). You can prevent contracting tapeworm by handling animal feces with gloves or a shovel, and washing your hands thoroughly.
Symptoms in pets: According to Dr. Shainhouse, abdominal pain, diarrhea, rice-like pieces in the stool, fatigue, hunger or loss of appetite, and longer worms in vomit are signs of tapeworm. She says that pets with tapeworm also often drag their bottoms along the ground.
“Ringworm, which is a fungal disease (despite the deceptive name), grows on hair follicles. It is transmitted through direct contact,” explains Dr. Richter. Cleaning your pet’s bedding regularly, frequently washing your hands, vacuuming, and disinfecting are your best bets for avoiding ringworm.
Symptoms in pets: Animals get the same circular lesion as humans, but it can be difficult to see under their fur so look out for signs like red lesions, crusty skin, and patchy hair.
“This bacterial infection is caused by Bartonella henselae, which is carried by kittens. It is transmitted to humans via a scratch from the infected animal,” explains Dr. Shainhouse. According to the CDC, 30 to 40 percent of adopted shelter cats have documented cases of cat scratch fever. People with weakened immune systems are at higher risk, so they may want to hold off getting a kitten less than a year old, since they’re more likely to get the infection. If you do get scratched, wash the area immediately.
Symptoms in pets: Cats usually don’t show any symptoms but in some cases may have a fever, and in rare cases, may have labored breathing, vomiting, swollen lymph nodes, red eyes, and/or decreased appetite. And despite the name, dogs can also get cat scratch fever and may show signs of fever, arrhythmia, and inflammation of the heart (endocarditis).
“Pets can also pass some parasites on to their humans,” says Dr. Reel. “Giardia is a common intestinal parasitic microorganism, which causes severe gastrointestinal symptoms. This parasite can be spread through contact with contaminated water or contact with infected fecal matter.
Symptoms in pets: Painful gas, stomach cramps, diarrhea, and vomiting are common.
Not to be confused with human scabies, pet scabies can’t truly be spread to humans, but can cause some discomfort. “In pet scabies, the animal is the only viable host for the mite, meaning the mite only lives on the pet,” explains Dr. Shainhouse. “However, the mite can jump off of the pet, bite the human owner, then jump back home (aka, the pet’s skin).” The best way to protect you and your dog is to avoid having your dog around other animals that have it.
Symptoms in pets: Pet scabies can affect your pet-typically dogs-with severe itching, rash, blisters, and sores.
Camp-what? The name may be hard to pronounce, but the CDC estimates that Campylobacter is the top cause of bacterial diarrheal illness in the country. Though it’s typically contracted from raw or undercooked poultry, pets can also spread it. “Campylobacteriosis is a bacterial disease cause by Campylobacter species. Fecal-oral transmission can result in gastrointestinal symptoms in most healthy persons. More serious infections can occur if a person is very young, elderly, or immunocompromised,” says Dr. Gallagher.
That’s why it’s important to wash your hands frequently, especially if you come in contact with animal feces.
Symptoms in pets: Most common in puppies younger than six months old. Fever, vomiting, and enlarged lymph nodes are possible symptoms in your dog.
Although our furry friends get the brunt of the diseases that can be passed on to humans, our scaled sidekicks aren’t without their possible infections. Mycobacterium Marinum grows in fish tanks and can be spread to humans. “It is commonly seen in people who put their ungloved hands into fish tanks (like when you clean out your pet’s tank),” explains Dr. Shainhouse. So be sure to wear gloves when scooping out fish and cleaning the fish tank.
Yet another canine parasite, hookworms suck on the intestinal lining of dogs. The eggs in the pet feces could transfer through the skin if you come in contact with it. Thoroughly washing your hands will go a long way, especially after curbing your dog.
“Dog and cat bites that pierce human skin can cause severe skin infection and cellulitis if not treated immediately,” warns Dr. Shainhouse. “Cats’ mouths carry Pasturella multocida, while dogs carry Staphylococcus, Streptomyces and Capnocytophaga sp.” Avoid rough play with your pets or other animals that might result in them taking an unintentional nibble of your skin.
Though it’s not totally a disease, contact dermatitis is an irritating side effect of having pets for some people. “Pet kisses may be a sign of affection or loyalty, but it can cause skin irritation in humans,” says Dr. Shainhouse.
“If you are crazy enough to have a pet tarantula, know that they are not soft and fuzzy. Their ‘fur’ is actually spines that can be shed as protection when they are afraid or in fighting mode. These spines can prickle your skin and cause an irritant dermatitis.”
Take preventative measures especially if you have sensitive skin, like washing up after getting licked by your pet to prevent a rash.
Symptoms in pets: None
Symptoms in humans: Skin irritation, rash, and itchiness.Vets reveal the most dangerous diseases pets can give you Pets are one of life’s great joys. According to the National Institutes of Health, some 68 percent of American households have a pet, and their benefits are countless, from getting active to boosting mood. But as wonderful as our furry (or scaly, or feathered) friends are, there are certain health risks that come with having an animal in your home.
Once I was seven years old my momma told me Go make yourself some friends or you’ll be lonely Once I was seven years old
It was a big big world, but we thought we were bigger Pushing each other to the limits, we were learning quicker By eleven smoking herb and drinking burning liquor Never rich so we were out to make that steady figure
Once I was eleven years old my daddy told me Go get yourself a wife or you’ll be lonely Once I was eleven years old
I always had that dream like my daddy before me So I started writing songs, I started writing stories Something about that glory just always seemed to bore me ‘Cause only those I really love will ever really know me
Once I was twenty years old, my story got told Before the morning sun, when life was lonely Once I was twenty years old
I only see my goals, I don’t believe in failure ‘Cause I know the smallest voices, they can make it major I got my boys with me at least those in favor And if we don’t meet before I leave, I hope I’ll see you later
Once I was twenty years old, my story got told I was writing about everything, I saw before me Once I was twenty years old Soon we’ll be thirty years old, our songs have been sold We’ve traveled around the world and we’re still roaming Soon we’ll be thirty years old
I’m still learning about life My woman brought children for me So I can sing them all my songs And I can tell them stories Most of my boys are with me Some are still out seeking glory And some I had to leave behind My brother I’m still sorry
Soon I’ll be sixty years old, my daddy got sixty-one Remember life and then your life becomes a better one I made a man so happy when I wrote a letter once I hope my children come and visit, once or twice a month
Soon I’ll be sixty years old, will I think the world is cold Or will I have a lot of children who can warm me Soon I’ll be sixty years old Soon I’ll be sixty years old, will I think the world is cold Or will I have a lot of children who can warm me Soon I’ll be sixty years old
Once I was seven years old, momma told me Go make yourself some friends or you’ll be lonely Once I was seven years old