Quick, say the first thing that pops into your head when you read the word “pancreas.”
If you said “cancer,” you’re not alone. Most people only think about their pancreas when they hear about pancreatic cancer—which is the deadliest form of cancer in terms of 5-year survival rates.
“Part of the reason survival rates are so low is that identifying pancreatic cancer early is difficult,” says Andrew Hendifar, MD, co-director of pancreas oncology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
Early detection is also tough when it comes to non-cancer pancreas problems, says Ted Epperly, MD, president of Family Medicine Residency of Idaho.
Tucked deep in your abdomen, your pancreas is a long, flat organ that produces enzymes and hormones that aid in digestion. While symptoms of pancreas issues can be persnickety, both Epperly and Hendifar say there are a handful of warning signs that warrant a call to your doctor. Here are 5 of them. (Want to pick up some healthier habits? Sign up to get healthy living tips delivered straight to your inbox!)