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Pancreatic Cancer Symptoms: What To Look Out For

Medically reviewed by John Paul Abrina, MD · Oncology · Davao Doctors Hospital

Written by Hello Doctor Medical Panel · Updated Oct 03, 2022

    Pancreatic Cancer Symptoms: What To Look Out For

    What are important pancreatic cancer symptoms? Often, pancreatic cancer is not discovered until it has spread and is difficult to cure. In the vast majority of cases, symptoms don’t appear until cancer has spread and progressed. Since exocrine pancreatic cancer accounts for more than 95% of cases, we’ll start by describing its symptoms before moving on to those of less common types.

    Location Affects Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer

    Pancreatic cancer typically starts out silent and painless before spreading. Pancreatic cancer typically spreads outside of the pancreas by the time it is large enough to cause symptoms. The location of the pancreas in the body is associated with the following symptoms:

    • Itching
    • Pale feces
    • Dark urine
    • Jaundice

    These are caused by the components of bile building up in the blood as a result of pancreatic cancer clogging the common bile duct. Jaundice causes the skin and eyes to appear yellow.

    A dull stomachache that radiates from the upper belly to the back may be a sign of pancreatic cancer. It’s important to keep in mind that having any or all of these symptoms does not necessarily mean that a person has pancreatic cancer. Pain could come and go, a backache, bloating, nausea, vomiting, and symptoms from pancreatic tumors in the head generally manifest earlier than those in the body and tail. Some people with pancreatic cancer have painful abdominal bloating or an early sense of fullness after eating (satiety).

    Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer

    What are the pancreatic cancer symptoms and signs you should take note of? As pancreatic cancer spreads and advances, it has an impact on the entire body. Loss of weight, feeling ill, and decreased appetite are some of the symptoms.

    Some people with pancreatic cancer go on to develop diabetes because the malignancy affects the pancreas’ ability to produce insulin, which results in elevated blood sugar levels.

    Symptoms of Rare Pancreatic Cancers

    Islet cell tumors, also known as neuroendocrine tumors, arise from the hormone-producing cells in the pancreas and account for less than 5% of all pancreatic malignancies. However, islet cell tumors are not automatically malignant. Similar to pancreatic adenocarcinomas, islet cell tumors can cause nausea, vomiting, weight loss, and abdominal pain.

    The following are additional signs brought on by hormones released by an islet cell tumor:

    • Insulinomas (excess insulin), which cause symptoms like trembling, sweating, anxiety, and low blood sugar fainting
    • Glucagonomas (excess glucagon), which cause symptoms like weight loss, increased thirst, and diarrhea
    • Gastrinomas (excess gastrin), which cause symptoms like weight loss, bleeding stomach ulcers, reflux, and abdominal pain
    • Somatostatinomas (excess somatostatin), which cause symptoms like watery diarrhea, stomach ache
    • Facial flushing are some of the signs of an excess of the vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIPomas).

    Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer Can Be Covert

    The rarity and ambiguity of these circumstances highlight how difficult it is to detect pancreatic cancer early on. But symptoms like unexpected weight loss, chronic appetite loss, yellowing of the skin or eyes, black urine, or light-colored feces should always raise suspicion. Unfortunately, no discernible pattern has been found by researchers.

    What to Do When You Experience Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer?

    See your doctor if you experience any unexplained symptoms that worry you. Since many other conditions can cause these symptoms, your doctor may check for these conditions in addition to pancreatic cancer. Most pancreatic cancer patients die of liver failure due to their liver being taken over by a tumor.

    Key Takeaways

    Since pancreatic cancer typically has no symptoms, about 50% of cases won’t be discovered until they have spread to other organs and other parts of the body. In order to ensure that your health is in good hands, contact your doctor immediately for any concerns. 

    Learn more about Pancreatic Cancer here


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    John Paul Abrina, MD

    Oncology · Davao Doctors Hospital

    Written by Hello Doctor Medical Panel · Updated Oct 03, 2022

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