Symptoms of pancreatic cancer

Pancreatic cancer may not cause symptoms for a long time and some people may have only one symptom. The most common symptoms are:

Pain or discomfort

This often begins in the upper part of the tummy. Sometimes, it spreads to the back. The pain may come and go, or be there all the time. It may feel worse when you are lying down and better when you are sitting up or bending forward.


If you have ampullary cancer or if the cancer is in the head of the pancreas and blocks the bile duct, you may develop jaundice. Cancer in the tail or body of the pancreas is less likely to cause jaundice.

If bile can’t drain away, it builds up in the body. This can cause symptoms such as yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes, itchy skin, dark yellow urine and pale bowel motions.

Jaundice can be caused by illnesses other than pancreatic cancer.

Weight loss

This may happen even if there have been no changes in what you eat.

Other symptoms

Pancreatic cancer can cause other symptoms, such as:

  • loss of appetite
  • indigestion
  • feeling sick (nausea) and being sick (vomiting)
  • feeling bloated after meals
  • diarrhoea or a change in bowel habits
  • feeling very tired
  • diabetes
  • depression
  • a blood clot in the leg (deep vein thrombosis or DVT) or the lungs (pulmonary embolus).

Remember: most pain in the abdomen is not caused by cancer of the pancreas. But see your doctor if you are worried.

Up until about a month before, I thought I was fit and well. I got the first symptoms, which were backache then abdominal pain that got increasingly worse, and pain when I was eating.


Back to Understanding pancreatic cancer

The pancreas

The pancreas is part of the digestive system. It is in the upper part of the tummy (abdomen).

Types of pancreatic cancer

Pancreatic cancers can be described by where they are found in the pancreas or the type of cells they start from.

What is cancer?

There are more than 200 different kinds of cancer, each with its own name and treatment.