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Signs and Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer is a cancer of the tissues of the pancreas. The most common type of pancreatic cancer is called an adenocarcinoma, which accounts for 95% of all pancreatic cancers. The symptoms that lead to a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer depend upon the size, location and the type of tumor.

The signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer may not appear until the disease is quite advanced, and the later symptoms are often non-specific and varied. We have put together a list of common signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer below.

The Signs and Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer:

Pancreatic cancer has been called “the silent killer” because early pancreatic cancer often does not cause symptoms. Therefore, pancreatic cancer is often not diagnosed until the disease is quite advanced, and it is too late for surgical removal of the pancreas. Common symptoms include:

  • Pain in the upper abdomen that typically radiates to the back
  • Yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Significant weight loss
  • Depression
  • Itchy skin
  • Pale stools
  • Blood clots forming in the deep veins of the extremities, and in the superficial veins anywhere in the body
  • The onset of diabetes months or years before pancreatic cancer develops

These signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer are very common, and mimic many other disorders. See your doctor if you experience weight loss, jaundice or abdominal pain.

The risk factors for pancreatic cancer include family history, being over age sixty, being black, being male, obesity, smoking, having adult-onset diabetes, diets high in fructose-sweetened drinks, and chronic inflammation of the pancreas.

Diagnosis of Pancreatic Cancer

If a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer is suspected, your doctor may undertake some of the following tests: Imaging tests such as a CT scan, an MRI, or an endoscopic ultrasound. To confirm a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, a tissue sample is taken during a biopsy.

Pancreatic cancer is the 4th most common cause of cancer death both in the US and internationally. Its poor prognosis is connected to the fact that it is difficult to diagnose until it is advanced.

Books For People With Signs and Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer

Johns Hopkins Patients’ Guide to Pancreatic Cancer (Johns Hopkins Medicine)
Nita Ahuja
100 Questions & Answers About Pancreatic Cancer, Second Edition
Eileen O’Reilly

Pancreatic Cancer: A Patient and His Doctor Balance Hope and Truth (A Johns Hopkins Press Health Book)
Michael J. Lippe
Pancreatic Cancer: Current and Emerging Trends in Detection and Treatment (Cancer and Modern Science)
Amy Sterling Casil

Pancreatic Cancer Resources

General Patient Resources

  • National Cancer Institute

Describes possible risks, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment for someone recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

  • Pancreatic Cancer UK

Information and support. Just diagnosed; Treatment; Your local specialist centre; Facts about pancreatic cancer; Living with pancreatic cancer; Discussion forum

  • Pancreatic Cancer Action Network

The national organization creating hope in a comprehensive way through research, patient support, community outreach and advocacy for a cure.

  • Pancreatica

Taking an aggressive rational stance against pancreas cancer, at the earliest possible time, supported by the best medical team, and treated in the most appropriate manner gives the best chance for pancreatic cancer survival. We believe in strong patient-physician bonds, scientifically-based pancreatic cancer treatment, and that comfort can come from knowing that everything that reasonably can be done – is being done. That the best approach is meeting cancer of the pancreas head-on and armed with the best available information

  • About . com

Learn more about pancreatic cancer, including the causes, symptoms, treatment, and prevention of pancreatic cancer.

  • E Medicine Health

Read about pancreatic cancer symptoms such as smoking, age, gallstones, diabetes, alcoholism, male gender, and family history. Causes, diagnosis, treatment, prognosis and more.

  • Cancer Compass

Our pancreatic cancer forum and online resources provide a supportive environment where you can ask questions, research information and get valuable feedback from other cancer patients and their loved ones.,0,119,27.htm

  • E Health Forum

Welcome to the Pancreatic Cancer Forum – a health community featuring member and doctor discussions ranging from a specific symptom to related conditions, treatment options, medication, side effects, diet, and emotional issues surrounding medical conditions.

Medical Resources

  • Mayo Clinic

Comprehensive overview covers symptoms and treatment of cancer of the pancreas.

  • Pub Med Health

Reviews causes, risk factors, symptoms, incidence, treatment, prognosis and complications.

  • Web MD

Pancreatic Cancer Health Center reviews the symptoms, causes and more.