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Pancreatic Cancer

Symptoms and Signs of Pancreatic Cancer

In many cases, the symptoms of pancreatic cancer are not apparent until the disease has advanced and spread to other organs and areas of the body. These symptoms can include:

  • Diabetes: Although rare, exocrine cancers can cause diabetes by destroying insulin-making cells.
  • Digestive problems: Cancer may prevent pancreatic enzymes from being released into the intestine, making it difficult to digest foods and resulting in significant weight loss and malnutrition.
  • Gallbladder enlargement: If the cancer blocks the bile duct, the bile buildup may enlarge the gallbladder.
  • Itching: Severe itching, which occurs when high levels of bile acids accumulate in the skin, may develop in the later stages of pancreatic cancer.
  • Jaundice: Yellowing of the skin and eyes occurs when bilirubin, a breakdown product of worn-out blood cells, accumulates in the blood. Bilirubin accumulates when a pancreatic tumor blocks the flow of bile. This is a common symptom in about half the cases of pancreatic cancer.
  • Loss of appetite and unintentional weight loss: Weight loss may result from the loss of appetite associated with pancreatic cancer.
  • Nausea and vomiting: In advanced-stage pancreatic cancer, the tumor may block the upper portion of the small intestine, causing nausea and vomiting.
  • Upper abdominal pain: This is a common symptom of advanced-stage pancreatic cancer. Pain is often caused by a tumor pressing on surrounding nerves and organs.