What Does Pancreatic Cancer Back Pain Feel Like?

Reviewed on 4/30/2021

Pancreatic cancer is hard to be recognized in its earlier stages as its signs and symptoms may resemble vague gastrointestinal complaints.
Pancreatic cancer is hard to be recognized in its earlier stages as its signs and symptoms may resemble vague gastrointestinal complaints.

Pancreatic cancer is hard to be recognized in its earlier stages as its signs and symptoms may resemble vague gastrointestinal complaints. Pain in the abdomen or back is its common symptom. It is mostly intermittent initially, that is, it comes and goes. But with time, it becomes more frequent. The abdominal pain is most often due to the tumor pressing on the nearby organs. It can be worse when lying down, and you can sometimes feel better when you sit leaning forward. It may worsen after eating. Back pain may arise if the tumor spreads to the nerve surrounding the pancreas and if it has grown so much that it presses on the spine.

What are the other signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer?

The signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer may also be found in other conditions of the digestive system. These include

Unusual signs include

How is pancreatic cancer diagnosed?

Doctors will check your eyes and look at your skin for signs of jaundice. They will take your complete medical history and family history to look for possible risk factors such as smoking.

Pancreatic cancer can cause the liver and gallbladder to swell. Your doctor will examine your abdomen to check if there is any such swelling, which may be felt.

If your doctor suspects some abnormality, they will order tests that include

Computerized tomography (CT) scan

CT scans can show the pancreas fairly clearly. Hence, they are often used as confirmatory tests to diagnose pancreatic cancer. A special type of CT known as a multiphase CT scan or a pancreatic protocol CT scan is especially used for this purpose. You will be administered an injection of an intravenous (IV) contrast.

A long needle may be inserted into your pancreas to take a small piece of your pancreas. During this procedure, CT is used to guide the needle into the pancreas. The sample of the pancreas is then sent to the laboratory for examination under a microscope. This procedure is known as CT-guided biopsy.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

Special types of MRI scans, namely, MR cholangiopancreatography (MRCP) can be used to look at the pancreatic and bile ducts.

Ultrasound (US)

US, particularly the abdominal US, is a simple test that does not use radiation. It is often the first test used to look at the organs for complaints such as abdominal pain. But the final diagnosis rests with a CT scan.

The endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) test is more accurate than the abdominal US. For this test, a small US probe on the tip of a thin, flexible tube is inserted through a small incision into your abdomen to look for signs of pancreatic cancer. A small piece of the tumor may also be removed (biopsy) and sent to the laboratory to check for cancerous cells.

Cholangiopancreatography

This imaging test looks for the blockage, narrowing or dilation in the pancreatic ducts and bile ducts.

Angiography

In this test, a dye is injected into an artery leading to the pancreas. This highlights any problems in your blood vessels around the pancreas and shows them up on an X-ray.

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References
Pancreatic Cancer. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/pancreatic-cancer/

Pancreatic Cancer. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/280605-overview

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