What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer?

VIDEO | 02:15

Learn about the symptoms of pancreatic cancer, including abdominal pain, nausea, and more.

Show transcript

What are the signs and symptoms of pancreas cancer? So pancreas cancer's an insidious process, and there aren't any signs or symptoms that speak specifically to this disease in that they can represent a variety of potential different explanations. But common things would be change in appetite, change in an energy level, feeling full quickly, abdominal discomfort.

Jaundice is an important one, so developing dark urine, noticing itching, or a family member noticing their eyes are yellow, and pain so sometimes abdominal pain, but a classic one is back pain because of tumor infiltrating nerves that, a lot of times, we'll hear the story that people have been investigated for back pain with multiple different tests and non revealing, and then ultimately, yield a diagnosis of pancreas cancer but just to say that these symptoms for most people do not mean pancreas cancer. But when they come together, certainly the antenna are up in terms of possibly being connected to this disease.

Another point to keep, and this is something that we discuss with our primary care colleagues, is if the blood glucose level, blood sugar level is elevated, and there isn't a lifestyle, or family predisposition, or body habitus that suggests diabetes, that you have to think, could something else be going on? And that can be latent for sometimes a number of years prior to a diagnosis of pancreas cancer.

If somebody has very stable glucose control for a long period of time, and then suddenly diabetic control is off, or they become newly diabetic, one has to at least think, could there be something else in the background beyond diabetes? And most of the time, there isn't, but a small percentage of time, there is. And that may give some early opportunity in terms of trying to diagnose this disease before it has spread to other areas.