Pancreatic Cancer Symptoms

Educating the community.

Because pancreatic cancer grows around important areas of the digestive system, gastrointestinal symptoms often predominate. Since many of these symptoms mimic a variety of digestive issues, always discuss your symptoms with a physician.

Pancreatic Cancer Association of Western New York, PCA WNY, pancreatic cancer symptoms, cancer education, medical symptoms

Abdominal Pain

More than 80% of people with pancreatic cancer eventually experience some abdominal pain that can radiate around to the back. The pain may come and go.

Nausea / Indigestion

Poor appetite, indigestion and nausea are common in people with pancreatic cancer. Some or all of these symptoms may occur when a tumor in the pancreas presses against the stomach or first portion of the small intestine. If this happens, food may remain in the stomach and cause several digestive difficulties, including nausea and vomiting.

Abdominal Bloating

Some people with pancreatic cancer have a sense of early fullness with meals (satiety) or an uncomfortable swelling in the abdomen. Ascites is the abnormal accumulation of fluid in the abdomen. This extra fluid causes the belly to become swollen and distended.


Diarrhea consisting of loose, watery, oily or foul-smelling stools can be caused by insufficient amounts of pancreatic enzymes in the intestines. This leads to malabsorption as undigested food passes quickly through the digestive tract.

Changes in Stool

As pancreatic cancer reduces the pancreas’ ability to secrete fat-digesting enzymes, more fat ends up in the stool. These fatty stools can be strange-smelling, and float more than normal. Pale-colored stools. Urine may become darker.

Unexplained Weight Loss

Cancer-induced weight loss (also known as cancer cachexia) is a complex problem that affects the way the body uses calories and protein. Cancer cachexia can cause the body to burn more calories than usual, break down muscle and decrease appetite. A person may also notice a change in appetite or desire for certain foods.

Other Possible Symptoms

As it grows and spreads, pancreatic cancer affects the whole body. Since many of these symptoms mimic a variety of digestive issues, always discuss your symptoms with a physician.

Some other possible symptoms include:

  • Malaise
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Diabetes
  • Jaundice: Yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes
  • Full-Body Itching: Caused from a blockage of the bile ducts

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