HealthYour skin could be signaling pancreatic cancer

Your skin could be signaling pancreatic cancer

What can a rash on the body indicate?
What can a rash on the body indicate?
Images source: © Getty Images | Ted Gough

11:57 AM EST, January 15, 2024

Defining erythema migrans

Erythema migrans is a skin condition evident by erythema's slow, ring-shaped expansion from its central point.

While it's most typically associated with Lyme disease (which is transmitted by ticks), it can also manifest in conjunction with other diseases, including cancer.

Erythema migrans and pancreatic cancer

The appearance of erythema migrans is linked with glucagonomas - an extremely rare type of hormonally active tumor that originates from the alpha cells of the pancreas and secretes glucagon, a hormone responsible for sustaining appropriate blood glucose levels when fasting. This tumor is malignant, but it exhibits relatively slow growth.

A surplus of glucagon in the bloodstream can show itself, among other symptoms, by uncontrolled spikes in blood glucose levels and the presence of erythema migrans, which might cyclically emerge, heal, and re-emerge after several days.

Additional symptoms of pancreatic cancer

Late detection of pancreatic cancer often tends to be linked to the tumor's lack of noticeable symptoms for a long period. However, it’s been observed that as many as 75% of patients (in the early stages of the disease) suffer from chronic fatigue, general malaise, and skin itching.

Other symptoms may encompass loss of appetite, unexplained weight loss, jaundice, abdominal or back pain, nausea, gastrointestinal disturbances, and alterations in bowel movement patterns accompanied by changes in the appearance of feces and urine.

With pancreatic cancer, the stool can appear "pale" and clay-like, while the urine can become darker.

Diagnosis and the significance of early detection

Diagnosing pancreatic cancer often proves difficult owing to the lack of specific symptoms in the early stages of the disease. Various diagnostic methods, such as imaging tests (ultrasound, CT, MRI), biopsy, or the CA 19-9 marker, are utilized.

It's crucial to remember that the sooner the diagnosis, the greater the chances of successful treatment.

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