The pancreas is an organ in the abdomen that is positioned behind the lower part of the stomach. Its main function is to release enzymes that help with digestion as well as produce hormones that help regulate a body’s blood sugar levels. Pancreatic cancer develops as a tumor (or tumors) form in the tissue of the pancreas. The most common form of pancreatic cancer begins in the cells that line the ducts responsible for carrying enzymes out of the pancreas.
Sadly, pancreatic cancer doesn’t cause a lot of symptoms in its early stages, making it nearly impossible for it to be caught early and treated. Because of this, many people are first diagnosed at Stage 4 when the cancer is quite advanced and has often spread to other areas of the body.
While there is no definite way to determine who will get pancreatic cancer, the following factors in your parent’s life could increase the risk of it developing.
- Poor Diet
- Chronic Inflammation of the Pancreas
- Family History of Genetic Syndromes or Pancreatic Cancer
- Age (it occurs more often in those over 65)
Studies have shown that the trifecta of smoking, long-standing diabetes, and a poor diet greatly increases the risk of developing pancreatic cancer more than anything else. As a caregiver, you and your elder care provider can actively work to decrease these risk factors in your parent by providing him healthy meals and snacks to eat, giving him resources needed to quit smoking, and helping him manage his diabetes if he already has it (and if he doesn’t have it, working to ensure he doesn’t develop it). If your parent does struggle with choosing these healthier options, having a good team to support a healthy lifestyle for your parent will make sure it doesn’t all fall on you. Enlist family members and your elder care provider to keep providing consistent support to your parent.
If your parent starts to develop any of the following symptoms, they could indicators of pancreatic cancer.
- Fatigue that is more extreme than usual.
- Itchy skin that is newly developed.
- Abdominal pain that seems to radiate to his back. If your parent has displayed lower back pain that doesn’t seem to stem from a strain or injury and doesn’t improve, it could be pain from the pressure of a tumor.
- Loss of appetite and unintended weight loss. It’s a good idea to have weekly weigh ins with your parent so you can monitor for any fluctuations in his weight. His elder care provider can help weigh your parent and track those numbers for you.
- Skin or eyes that appear yellow in color (jaundice).
- Dark colored urine and light-colored stools. While most likely you or your elder care provider will not be aware of these symptoms, remind your parent it’s always good to let someone know when there are changes to his stool and urine.
- Diabetes that has become difficult to control.
All of these symptoms could indicate many things going on in your parent’s body that may or may not be pancreatic cancer. If you find your parent is suffering from any of them, it’ll be important to bring him into his regular physician for a check up and to determine next steps in finding the cause. An elder care provider can also help by taking your senior to their doctor and other appointments when needed.
If you or an aging loved one are considering non-medical in-home care in Scarsdale and Yonkers, NY, call Griswold Home Care
and speak to one of our caring staff members today. Call (914) 768-9065