Pancreatic cancer in the initial stages is usually silent and painless (i.e it does not cause any symptoms). Therefore, in many cases, it goes undetected until it has advanced and become not curable. Symptoms of pancreatic cancer become evident in most cases only after it has grown and spread outside the pancreas to the adjacent tissues. Symptoms of pancreatic cancer depend on the cancer's location within the pancreas and the tissues it has invaded.
Some common symptoms of pancreatic cancer include:
Jaundice: In this condition, yellow discoloration of the skin and eyes occur. It is a common symptom of pancreatic cancer. Jaundice is caused because of an increase in the level of bilirubin in the blood. Jaundice occurs in pancreatic cancer when it completely or partially blocks the bile ducts of the liver, thus slowing or interrupting the flow of bile.
Abdominal Pain: It is one of the most common symptoms of pancreatic cancer. More than 80% of people with pancreatic cancer have some abdominal pain in due course of illness. The pain is usually situated in the upper abdomen and may radiate to the back. The pain may come and go and usually tends to become more severe when the person lies down or 3 to 4 hours after eating.
Unintended Weight Loss: If you lose significant amount of weight without even trying, something is probably wrong. It is a common symptom of many cancers and one of the first symptoms you may notice.
Loss of Appetite: This is a non-specific symptom of pancreatic cancer, which can be caused by something as small as viral diarrhoea. If it persists for more than a few days, consult your doctor for diagnosis and treatment.
Nausea/Vomiting: This is another non-specific symptom, which is caused by many cancers and many other benign conditions. As abdominal pain, nausea, loss of appetite and weight loss are non-specific symptoms, diagnosis of pancreatic cancer is often delayed.
Bloating: Pancreatic cancer can cause sensation of early fullness on eating (satiety) or an uncomfortable swelling in the abdomen in some cases.
Pale-coloured stools: If the cancer grows and obstructs the duct draining bile from liver into the intestine, the stools may become pale or clay-coloured rather than the normal brown colour. Besides this, the colour of urine may become darker (dark yellow to orange)
Increase in blood sugar: Some people with pancreatic cancer may experience rise in blood sugar levels as the cancer can affect the pancreas' ability to produce insulin, however, diabetes is a common disease and pancreatic cancer is not suspected in a person with new diagnosis of diabetes unless there are other bothersome symptoms (such as jaundice, weight loss, pain abdomen).