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Back pain warning: It can be a sign of pancreatic cancer – how to tell

Back pain is not usually a cause for concern and it typically subsides within a few weeks or months on its own. Back pain mostly falls under “non-specific”, which means there is no obvious cause. It may simply be a case of picking up awkwardly.

In rare circumstances, back pain can be attributed to a serious underlying cause.

Back pain is associated with a number of cancers, such as pancreatic cancer.

Pancreatic cancer begins in the tissues of your pancreas — an organ in your abdomen that lies behind the lower part of your stomach.

According to Cancer Research UK, the back pain is often felt in the middle of the back and is persistent.

It can also begin in the stomach area and spread around to the back, says the charity.

“The pain is worse when you lie down and is better if you sit forward. It can be worse after meals,” it adds.

The pain associated with pancreatic cancer is common – it is reported in about 70 percent of cases, according to Pancreatic Cancer UK.

“Pain is caused by the cancer affecting nerves or organs near the pancreas,” explains the health body.

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“It can also be a result of a tumour causing a blockage in the stomach or duodenum (top part of the small intestines),” it adds.

Other serious causes of back pain

According to the NHS, other serious underlying causes of back pain include:

A broken bone in the spineAn infection
Cauda equina syndrome (where the nerves in the lower back become severely compressed)
Multiple myeloma (a type of bone marrow cancer).

“If you see a GP with back pain, they’ll look for signs of these,” explains the health body.

In most cases, back pain should either clear up on its own or can be remedied by making a number of lifestyle adjustments.

One effective remedy for chronic back pain is to engage in regular exercise.

Although it may seem counterintuitive, regular exercise keeps your muscles, bones, joints and other connective tissue healthy, explains Bupa.

Health guidelines say to aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week.

Other key tips include:

  • Take care when lifting – avoid bending or twisting your back.
  • Doctors used to advise bed rest, but now we know this can make back pain worse. Try to avoid sitting for long periods
  • You may want to try applying heat or cold treatments to your back. Don’t put ice directly on your skin.
  • If you sleep on your side, you may find it helps to sleep with a small cushion between your knees.
  • If you sleep on your back, try some firm pillows under your knees.

“Your GP may recommend that you take over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) – for example, ibuprofen,” explains Bupa.

These can relieve back pain and help you to stay active – paracetamol alone doesn’t work quite so well for back pain.

“But NSAIDs are not suitable for everyone, so check the box or leaflet to see whether you can take the medicine first,” notes the NHS.

It adds: “Speak to a pharmacist if you’re not sure.”

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  • Posted on September 22, 2020