Signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer
Remember, cancer is not the cause of most pain in the abdomen. But you should see your doctor if you are worried.
If the cancer is in the head of the pancreas, it can block the bile duct. This means you may develop jaundice. Cancer in the tail or body of the pancreas is less likely to cause jaundice.
Jaundice happens when bile cannot drain away, but collects in your body. This can cause symptoms such as:
- yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes
- itchy skin
- dark yellow pee (urine)
- pale and smelly poo (stools) that is difficult to flush away (steatorrhoea).
Pancreatic cancer is not the most common cause of jaundice. Other illnesses, affecting the liver and bile duct, are more common causes.
Pancreatic cancer can cause other symptoms, such as:
- losing your appetite
- having indigestion
- feeling bloated after meals
- having diarrhoea or changing bowel habits
- feeling very tired
- being newly diagnosed with diabetes
- getting a blood clot in the leg (deep vein thrombosis or DVT) or the lungs (pulmonary embolus).
Most people with these symptoms will not have pancreatic cancer. More common conditions can be causing them. But if you have any symptoms, it is important to get them checked by your doctor.
Below is a sample of the sources used in our pancreatic cancer information. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
British Society of Gastroenterology. Guidelines for the management of patients with pancreatic cancer peri-ampullary and ampullary carcinomas. 2005.
European Society for Medial Oncology. Cancer of the pancreas: ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up. Annals of Oncology, 2015. 26 (Supplement 5): v56 to v68.
Fernandez-del Castillo. Clinical manifestations, diagnosis, and staging of exocrine pancreatic cancer. UpToDate online. Jan 2018.
Fernandez-del Castillo C, et al. Supportive care of the patient with locally advanced or metastatic exocrine pancreatic cancer. UpToDate online. Feb 2017.
Winter JM, et al. Cancer of the pancreas, DeVita Hellman and Rosenberg’s Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology (10th edition). Lippincott Williams and Wilkins. 2016.
This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Chief Medical Editor, Professor Tim Iveson, Consultant Medical Oncologist.
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