If you have pain in the upper part of your stomach, it could be a sign of a number of problems associated with the pancreas. It's not something you want to ignore, because although the pancreas is tucked away behind the stomach and is hard to find, it serves important roles: to help your body digest food and use sugars as energy.
This condition happens when the pancreas, a long gland near the stomach and upper portion of the small intestine, becomes inflamed. With the acute form of this inflammation, the pain is sudden and can be stabbing, according to the American College of Gastroenterology. It may start in the upper abdomen and then move to the back. With the chronic form of this illness, the pain comes and goes over many years and starts with acute episodes.
Pain is the No. 1 symptom associated with cancer of the pancreas, according to the American Pancreatic Association. This cancer has the highest of mortality rates. The pain often starts in the upper abdomen, according to Columbia University Medical Center, but then it moves to the mid to upper back. The pain often gets worse when you eat or when you are in a relaxed position, sleeping or resting.
The reason "why" pain in the stomach is so typical of pancreatic disorders is because a tumor or other abnormality can grow to the point where it puts pressure on surrounding organs, like the abdomen, according to CUMC. It can also push on the surrounding nerves to create intense discomfort.
The American Pancreatic Association reports that the amount of pain you experience depends on the size of the tumor and other things, like how far the inflammation has impinged on the surrounding nerves.
The APA has also found that there is a link to the level of pain and the likelihood of death. It reports that the more intense the pain, the higher the mortality. It found that those who were pain-free lived an average of 29 months. Those who experienced moderate pain survived 19 months, while those who were in the most severe pain lived 9 months.