November is National Pancreatic Cancer Awareness month. The pancreas is a 6-inch gland in the abdomen. It assists in digestion and the regulation of the blood sugar and is surrounded by the liver, gallbladder, spleen and stomach. While pancreatic cancer is not as prevalent as some other cancers (there are about 56,000 cases diagnosed each year), it is a very serious illness. Discovering it early in the course of the disease can improve the prognosis of the patient.
As a caregiver to your elderly parent, you’ll want to be aware of the following symptoms and then follow up with your parent’s doctor if you are noticing multiple symptoms occurring or if symptoms are getting worse instead of better. If you feel like some of these symptoms are beginning to occur, you may find enlisting an elder care provider to help you monitor them might be helpful.
Loss of appetite
This can be caused by many things, but pancreatic cancer patients often describe feeling very full after just a few bites, leading to a loss of overall appetite.
Again, this can be the symptom of many issues, but if extreme lethargy is combined with other symptoms, you will want to get it checked out.
Pain focused on the central part of the abdomen, especially if it radiates to the back, can be a symptom of pancreatic cancer.
When the pancreas doesn’t work as it should, it can cause unexpected weight loss.
Unusual bowel movements
Bowel movements that are unusually foul-smelling and float can be caused by the pancreas no longer digesting foods high in fat properly.
Jaundice is a yellowing of the skin or eyes due to a build up of bile in the system. Tumors on the pancreas can cause blockages that create jaundice in patients.
Again, many things can cause itchy skin, but if combined with these other symptoms, it might be an indicator that the pancreas is not healthy.
As a caregiver to an elderly parent, there will be many health concerns that you’ll want to stay on top of, and it can seem overwhelming and frightening. You want your parent to stay as healthy as possible so he can stay in his home and live a fulfilling and joyful life. But you may find trying to discover how your parent is feeling health-wise can be difficult. Your aging parent may be afraid of calling attention to any symptoms he is struggling with because he won’t want to lose his freedom or independence.
To stay on top of symptoms related to diseases like pancreatic cancer, make a point to keep open communication with your parent. Be willing to have sometimes awkward conversations around topics that aren’t normally discussed in “polite” conversation.
You can also hire an elder care professional to help your parent with daily or weekly tasks. Elder care professionals can be a great extra set of eyes and ears on new behaviors or symptoms that may begin to occur in your parent, helping you catch any diseases, including pancreatic cancer, early on when it’s still treatable and manageable.
If you or an aging loved one is considering elder care in Sterling, VA, please contact the caring staff at Assisting Hands today. (703) 782-3655.