Pancreatic cancer symptoms do not typically show in the early stages, but as the cancer grows and spreads, more symptoms will become apparent. Symptoms of pancreatic cancer include:
- Jaundice occurs when bilirubin, a substance produced in the liver, builds up in the blood. Normally, bilirubin travels down the bile duct and passes through the pancreas just before emptying into the duodenum. However, if the bile duct becomes blocked, the level of bilirubin in blood rises, causing noticeably yellow skin and eyes. Jaundice can be a symptom of pancreatic cancer at an early stage, but can also be developed in the last few months due to liver malfunction.
- Change of color in urine and stool: Urine may turn orange or the color of iced tea. Stool may turn yellow or reddish, or become grey or chalky-white. These are also symptoms of jaundice or a blocked bile duct.
- Pain occurs when a pancreatic tumor presses against or infiltrates nearby nerves. The pain may be a dull ache, a sensation of bloating or fullness or a burning type discomfort. Patients often find the pain difficult to describe. Pain symptoms of pancreatic cancer often occur in a more advanced stage.
- Indigestion, lack of appetite, nausea, weight loss: These symptoms may occur when a pancreatic tumor presses against the stomach and small intestine. Nausea and weight loss may also occur if the release of pancreas enzymes is blocked for any reason and the body cannot absorb food completely. Significant weight loss can begin early in the disease.
- Sudden-onset diabetes or a sudden change in blood-sugar control in diabetics: Diabetes may be an early symptom of pancreatic cancer as well as a risk factor.
There are no significant differences between males and females when it comes to pancreatic cancer symptoms.
Having one or more of the symptoms listed above does not necessarily mean you have pancreatic cancer. However, it is important to discuss any symptoms with your doctor, since they may indicate other health problems.