Pancreatic cancer: Warning signs to look out for

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- After Jeopardy host Alex Trebek announced he had Stage IV pancreatic cancer, an expert we spoke with says 85% of the patients he sees locally come in when the cancer is already in the latter stages.

Some signs to look out for early on?

"If you're starting to turn yellow, if you've lost 30 pounds of weight in less than two months, if you have a constant dull ache in the upper part of your belly that radiates into your back, don't try to tough it out," says Dr. Amir Fathi.

Fathi specializes in pancreatic and liver surgery at CRMC.

Unlike breast and colon cancer, screening for pancreatic cancer is much more difficult.

The pancreas produces enzymes to help you digest food and also produces insulin.

Fathi says in another decade, the pancreatic cancer death rate is expected to move from number eight to number two, behind breast cancer.

"But pancreatic cancer death is going up because one of the reasons is we don't have a good screening tool," Fathi says.

Fathi says UCSF Fresno is taking part in ground-breaking research in trying to diagnose pancreatic cancer at an early stage.

"We call it liquid biopsy. Use the blood sample to detect the cell free DNA blood. We are looking for DNA of the tumor that is released in the blood."

In the meantime, Fathi urges people to listen to their bodies.
Copyright © 2021 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.