Pancreatic Cancer: Symptoms and Signs

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 12/2016

ON THIS PAGE: You will find out more about body changes and other things that can signal a problem that may need medical care. To see other pages, use the menu.

People with pancreatic cancer may experience the following symptoms or signs. Sometimes, people with pancreatic cancer do not have any of these changes. Or, the cause of a symptom may be another medical condition that is not cancer.

Doctors often say that pancreatic cancer is a silent disease because there are not many noticeable symptoms early on. Also, there are currently no specific tests that can reliably find the cancer for people who do not have symptoms. When people have symptoms, they are similar to the symptoms of other medical conditions, such as ulcers or pancreatitis (see Risk Factors). As the cancer grows, symptoms may include:

  • Yellow skin and eyes, darkening of the urine, itching, and clay-colored stool, which are signs of jaundice caused by a blockage of the bile ducts

  • Pain in upper abdomen or upper back

  • Painful swelling of an arm or leg due to a blood clot

  • Burning feeling in stomach or other gastrointestinal discomforts

  • Stomach bloating

  • Floating stools with a particularly bad odor and an unusual color due to the body not digesting fats well

  • Weakness

  • Loss of appetite

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Chills

  • Fever

  • Unexplained weight loss

If you are concerned about any changes you experience, please talk with your doctor. Your doctor will ask how long and how often you’ve been experiencing the symptom(s), in addition to other questions. This is to help find out the cause of the problem, called a diagnosis.

If cancer is diagnosed, relieving symptoms remains an important part of cancer care and treatment. This may also be called symptom management, palliative care, or supportive care. Be sure to talk with your health care team about symptoms you experience, including any new symptoms or a change in symptoms.

The next section in this guide is Diagnosis. It explains what tests may be needed to learn more about the cause of the symptoms. Or, use the menu to choose another section to continue reading this guide.