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Symptoms usually do not appear until pancreatic cancer is in advanced stages. If you experience symptoms, do not assume it is due to cancer. Many symptoms can be caused by other, less serious conditions, such as pancreatitis, or a problem with the gallbladder or liver. However, it is still important to discuss them with your doctor. Early detection and treatment improve outcomes for both cancer and other health conditions.

Symptoms may differ depending on what part of the pancreas is affected by cancer. In general, the most common symptoms of pancreatic cancer are:

  • Abdominal pain, which may or may not radiate to the back
  • Unintended weight loss—nutrients from foods are not broken down and absorbed properly
  • Lack of appetite
  • Yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes—jaundice
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Blood clots, which can lead to deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism
  • Nausea
  • Itching skin
  • Feeling of fullness even after only a light meal
  • Dark urine
  • Stools that are pale in color, greasy, or float on the toilet water
  • Glucose intolerance or type 2 diabetes

References:

De La Cruz MD, Young AP, Ruffin MT. Diagnosis and management of pancreatic cancer. Am Fam Physician. 2014;89(8):626-632.

Pancreatic cancer. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114527/Pancreatic-cancer. Updated July 6, 2016. Accessed March 23, 2017.

Pancreatic cancer. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gastrointestinal-disorders/tumors-of-the-gi-tract/pancreatic-cancer. Updated January 2017. Accessed March 23, 2017.

Signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/pancreatic-cancer/detection-diagnosis-staging/signs-and-symptoms.html. Updated May 31, 2016. Accessed March 23, 2017.



Last reviewed September 2016 by Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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