Maria Menounos Felt Like She Was Going to 'Explode Inside' Due to 'Severe' Pain from Pancreatic Cancer

Maria Menounos described the excruciating pain she felt before being diagnosed with stage 2 pancreatic cancer in January

Michael Loccisano/Getty Maria Menounos
Michael Loccisano/Getty Maria Menounos

Maria Menounos is remembering the alarming symptoms she had before her pancreatic cancer diagnosis.

The former E! News correspondent, 45, recently spoke to Today and described the excruciating pain she felt after eating a farro salad while on a flight a year ago.

“It was like that kind of pain where you felt like you were going to explode inside,” she told the outlet. “I thought it was the farro. I thought that I must be getting really gluten intolerant and my stomach just was not handling this well.”

However, after her symptoms — bloating, diarrhea, stomach pain — persisted, Menounos decided to see a doctor. Throughout 2022, she underwent an endoscopy and a colonoscopy, which didn’t reveal any problems. A CT scan also showed that her pancreas and other organs looked fine.

Despite not getting any answers, Menounos said her “severe” abdominal pain continued. So in January 2023, the TV personality decided to get a full-body MRI, which revealed she had a 3.9-centimeter tumor growing on her pancreas and she was diagnosed with stage 2 pancreatic cancer.

“That’s why I keep saying to people: If the symptoms persist, so should you,” Menounos said. “You have to be your own advocate and you have to keep pushing. It’s exhausting, but your life really depends on it.”

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Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images Maria Menounos
Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images Maria Menounos

Related: Maria Menounos Reveals She Survived Pancreatic Cancer — with a Baby on the Way (Exclusive)

“You’ve got to listen to your bodies,” she told the outlet. “For me it’s, ‘Feel something, say something, do something, and keep doing the something until someone tells you what’s happening.’”

Additionally, Menounos starred in a public service announcement for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN) in honor of the beginning of November’s Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month.

More than 62,000 people a year are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and more than 49,800 are expected to die from it in 2022 alone, according to the American Cancer Society.

Only 20 percent of patients survive a year after being diagnosed, and less than 10 percent of them live five years post-diagnosis. Symptoms — including intense back pain, loss of appetite, depression, fatigue, new-onset diabetes and jaundice — often don't reveal themselves until after the cancer has reached an advanced stage.

Earlier this year, Menounos told PEOPLE that after sharing her cancer journey, she’s on a mission to raise awareness about early detection and encourage others to seek answers to their health problems.

"I need people to know there are places they can go to catch things early," she told PEOPLE in February. "You can't let fear get in the way. I had that moment where I thought I was a goner — but I'm okay because I caught this early enough."

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