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?

Other symptoms may include

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Dr Hillary Jones: Do you know the symptoms of pancreatic cancer?

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It is important to remember these symptoms can be caused by many different conditions, including irritable bowel syndrome or indigestion, and aren’t usually the result of 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.

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:

Jaundice

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. More information on jaundice.

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.

Depression

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.

Diabetes

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: 12/10/2018 | Next Review Due: 19/10/2020