Jaundice in Pancreatic Cancer Patients

Jaundice is common in people with pancreatic cancer. It develops when the bile duct becomes blocked by the tumour and yellow pigment (bilirubin) builds up in the body that is normally excreted (passed).

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Jaundice may be painless, but it can be very itchy and irritating. It can also make the skin feel hot and uncomfortable; this is called pruritis. Jaundice can also cause nausea and vomiting as well as digestive problems and tiredness.

How do I know I have this?

The most obvious sign is yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes; jaundice may also cause your urine to be dark yellow and/or itching of the skin.

You should seek urgent medical advice if you are worried that you have the signs of jaundice.

You will need to be referred for tests to identify the cause. NICE guidelines suggest that anyone with jaundice should be investigated further.

There are many ways of treating jaundice and your medical team will help you decide which is the right one for you. One option is to be fitted with a stent to remove the blockage and keep the bile duct open. Another option is a surgical procedure called a pancreatic biliary bypass. The surgeon will bypass the blockage and allow bile to flow from your stomach to the small intestine which should solve the jaundice.

The symptoms of jaundice can be eased using medications if these surgical approaches are not appropriate to help drain your bile duct. Antihistamines and skin care are also important to relieve the itching. Keeping skin cool and using moisturising creams to stop it drying out can help relieve the symptoms.

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