Oncologist-approved cancer information from the American Society of Clinical Oncology
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Pancreatic Cancer

This section has been reviewed and approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 10/2013
Symptoms and Signs

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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 in this guide, use the colored boxes on the right side of your screen, or click “Next” at the bottom.

People with pancreatic cancer may experience the following symptoms or signs. Sometimes, people with pancreatic cancer do not show any of these symptoms. Or, these symptoms may be caused by a medical condition that is not cancer. If you are concerned about a symptom or sign on this list, please talk with your doctor.

Doctors often refer to pancreatic cancer as a silent disease because there are not many noticeable symptoms early on. And, there are currently no tests that can reliably find the cancer for people who do not have symptoms. When there are 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 obstructive jaundice (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

Your doctor will ask you questions about the symptoms you are experiencing to help find out the cause of the problem, called a diagnosis. This may include how long you’ve been experiencing the symptom(s) and how often.

If cancer is diagnosed, relieving symptoms and side effects 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.

Choose “Next” (below, right) to continue reading this guide to learn about what tests and scans you may have to learn more about the cause of your symptoms. Or, use the colored boxes located on the right side of your screen to visit any section.

© 2005-2014 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). All rights reserved worldwide.

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