Pancreatic Cancer Symptoms

Pancreatic cancer symptoms usually appear at the late stages of cancer making early detection of the disease problematic.


Pancreatic cancer is a medical condition involving the pancreas. One of the main roles of the pancreas in the body is to break down blood sugar so that it can be used as a source of energy. It also produces enzymes that assist in digestion of food in the small intestines. It is the fourth most common reason for cancer death in the world. The prognosis for an individual who has pancreatic cancer is poor. It means that the individual has a less chance of survival than other diseases. This makes early detection of the disease vital.

What are the Pancreatic Cancer Symptoms?

Frequently, when pancreatic cancer symptoms manifest, they are usually ambiguous and non-specific. In addition, these symptoms appear at the late stage of cancer. This is the reason why it is sometimes called the “silent killer.” Pancreatic cancer symptoms include drastic weight loss, stomach pains (See: Stomach cancer symptoms), vomiting, and dizziness. Frequently, yellowing of the skin and sclera of the eyes are also manifested.

Jaundice is a medical term that refers to the yellowing of the skin and sclera of the eyes. It is associated with high levels of bilirubin in the blood. This condition generally occurs when there is a blockage or tumor in the bile duct. Sudden weight loss is also observed. This symptom usually occurs in other kinds of cancer and other benign medical conditions. This is the reason why individuals should not be pleased about this. This may be indicative for the presence of an underlying disease.

Stomach pain is one of the pancreatic cancer symptoms that first appears. It is usually localized in the upper area of the abdomen. Referred pain may also be experienced at the back. Frequently, when the person is lying down, the pain will worsen. Vomiting, dizziness, and loss of appetite are also vague pancreatic cancer symptoms. These may be a few of the reasons for the delay of a pancreatic cancer diagnosis.

In rare cases, some with pancreatic cancer may also develop diabetes. The carcinoma may induce an underproduction of insulin. However, it is important to note that not all diabetes is caused by pancreatic cancer. Some changes may also be perceived in the stools and urine. The color of the urine intensifies from yellowish to brown. The stool becomes pale and lighter in color. The stools may also present an abnormal smell. Lastly, psychological problems such as depression may also be experienced by the individual.

Pancreatic cancer symptoms depend on the location of the carcinoma in the pancreas. According to studies, jaundice is clinically detected when the carcinoma is positioned at the head of the pancreas. On the other hand, if it is located at the tail area of the pancreas, stomach pain is observed.

Is There any Offered Screening of Pancreatic Cancer?

Many hospitals and agencies provide pancreatic cancer screening. However, it is not advisable for the general public to undergo this procedure. Those individuals at high risk of acquiring this medical condition are suitable to undergo this screening. Individuals who are at a high risk are those with a family history of pancreatic cancer and certain genetic conditions.

How is Pancreatic Cancer Diagnosed?

Aside from the presence of the pancreatic cancer symptoms mentioned above, certain laboratory examinations are needed to confirm the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. These examinations include liver function tests and biopsies. In liver function tests, the presence of the condition is suspected in an individual when CA19-9 is elevated. CA19-9 is a marker for tumors.

A biopsy is a procedure wherein a part of the tumor is checked for the presence of cancer cells under a microscope. Imaging tests, such as computed tomography scans and magnetic resonance imaging, are also beneficial. They provide images of the pancreas at different perspectives. Moreover, it is helpful in localizing the tumor.

What are the Different Treatment Modalities for Pancreatic Cancer?

The most common treatment of pancreatic cancer is surgical removal of the pancreas. This can be either potentially curative or palliative. “Potentially curative surgery” means a complete removal of a cancerous portion of the pancreas. On the other hand, “palliative surgery” means that the tumor cannot be removed completely because it is widespread already. This is done just to reduce the pancreatic cancer symptoms.

Aside from this, radiation therapy is another option. This involves exposing the affected area to radiation to kill the cancer cells. For any type of cancer, chemotherapy is always related. It is a treatment procedure that involves the usage of medicine or drugs to eliminate cancer cells. It is useful when the cancer has already metastasized throughout the body.

A reduction of pancreatic cancer symptoms has always been the one goal of treating pancreatic cancer. By decreasing the manifested symptoms, the survival rate of the individual increases. In turn, this decreases the mortality rate. It is imperative that before undergoing any treatment, proper understanding of treatments should always be made.