Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer is an uncommon form of cancer although it is the fifth most common cause of death amongst cancers, accounting for around 5% of cancer deaths each year. This form of cancer tends to affect people between the ages of fifty and eighty and more men are diagnosed than women. Due to this form of cancer being very difficult to treat it is important to understand the symptoms of pancreatic cancer and speak to your GP if you are ever in any doubt.

What are the Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer?

When pancreatic cancer first begins to develop there are very few symptoms making it hard to diagnose.  This is made further problematic by the symptoms also being linked to other diseases and so it can be hard to diagnose pancreatic cancer until it reaches a more advanced stage.  However, some of the symptoms of pancreatic cancer are outlined below:

  • Weight Loss – Although most cancers can cause the patient to lose weight, this is more likely to be true in the case of pancreatic cancer.  The pancreas is the organ that is responsible for digesting food and if it is unable to do this due to a tumour it can lead to a dramatic weight loss and malnourishment.


  • Pain – Pancreatic cancer can cause discomfort and pain if the upper abdomen which can sometimes spread across your back.  The pain will be worst whilst eating or laying down and although at first the pain may come and go, as the cancer becomes more advanced it will become more prolonged.


  • Diabetes – As the pancreas is the organ responsible for producing insulin you may develop diabetes due to pancreatic cancer.  This can lead to further weight loss, weakness and excessive thirst.


  • Jaundice – This is usually experienced if the cancer has formed in the head of your pancreas. 


  • Fever and shivering – This is usually experienced as a direct result of an inflamed stomach – caused by a tumour.


  • Nausea and Vomiting – You will usually experience this if the cancer is advanced and it is generally caused by the cancer blocking the digestive system.

Steps to Take if you have any Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer

If you have any of the symptoms of pancreatic cancer, firstly don’t worry.  The symptoms described above can all be the symptoms for other diseases that are not as serious and in some cases can be treated.  You should however immediately contact your GP.

It may be hard for your GP to diagnose pancreatic cancer especially if it is in the early stages however if they suspect that you may have it they will conduct some tests which will include examining your skin for jaundice, carrying out a blood test and testing your bile or urine.  Your GP may also send you for further tests at hospital which include:

  • An ultra sound
  • Magnetic Resource Imaging (MRI) scan
  • Computerised Tomography (CT) scan
  • Endoluminal Ultrasonography (EUS)
  • Biopsy
  • Laparoscopy


Pancreatic cancer is a very serious form of cancer that is very hard to diagnose and treat.  If your form of pancreatic cancer is incurable there are forms of treatment that you can take to slow tumour growth and help with the pain of any symptoms you experience.

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