Pancreatic Cancer Symptoms
As pancreatic cancer develops in the body, it may cause some of the following symptoms. The symptoms and severity can vary for each person but it’s important that if you are experiencing any, which are persistent and not normal for you, that you visit your GP or call NHS 111.
What are the main symptoms of pancreatic cancer?
Yellow of the skin and whites of the eyes, and/or very itchy skin.
Upper abdominal discomfort
Upper abdominal pain that radiates around the back.
Mid- back pain situated where a woman’s bra strap sits and be eased by leaning forward.
Pale and smelly poos
Stools that don’t flush easily.
Significant weight loss
Weight loss when not trying.
Not responding to prescribed medication.
Other symptoms may include
- Diabetes - new on-set and not associated with weight gain
- Nausea and vomitting
- Loss of appetite
- Pain when eating
Watch our symptoms video
Dr Hillary Jones: Do you know the symptoms of pancreatic cancer?
Not everyone will have all of these symptoms. For example, those who have a tumour in the body or tail of the pancreas are unlikely to have painless jaundice. All of these symptoms can have other causes, and there is not yet a reliable and easy test for pancreatic cancer. However, if you regularly experience one or more of these symptoms which are not normal for you, do not ignore them, contact your GP straight away.
However, if you regularly experience ONE OR MORE of these symptoms which are NOT NORMAL FOR YOU, DO NOT IGNORE THEM, contact your GP straight away.
Keeping track of any symptoms you may be experiencing can be useful when discussing them with your GP. Click here for the Pancreatic Cancer Action symptoms diary.
Further explanation of some of the symptoms:
30% of patients will have yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes, jaundice, when they first go to the doctors. This is related to the tumour blocking the bile duct which leads to a build-up of bile in the liver.
Jaundice may be more obvious in the whites of the eyes and bad jaundice can cause itching of the skin. For more information on jaundice click here.
Pain or discomfort in the abdomen and upper back
Approximately 70 per cent of patients with pancreatic cancer go to the doctor initially due to pain. This pain is often described as beginning in the stomach area and radiating around to the upper back (just above where a woman’s bra strap would be).
Generally the reason for the pain is because of the tumour pressing against your abdomen and spine.
Change in bowel habit
A tumour in the pancreas can cause bowel disturbances which means you do not absorb your food properly. This will result in regular, large bowel movements of pale and smelly stool. This can also cause weight loss.
Many of our patients or relatives have said that they have experienced mood changes before being diagnosed.
Mild to severe depression can often present itself in the early stages of pancreatic cancer. This is why if someone who has never suffered from a severe bout of depression before should express their concerns to their GP. It can often highlight a medical problem in the very early stages.
Pancreatic cancer can cause diabetes. A pancreatic tumour can interfere with insulin production in the pancreas which can lead to new onset diabetes.
You may have diabetes if you have low energy, pass more urine than normal and feel extremely thirsty.
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Information Product No. PCA0011v2 | Published: 19/10/2017 | Last Updated: 06/02/2018 | Next Review Due: 19/10/2020