Pancreatic Cancer Signs and Symptoms

Pancreatic Cancer Signs and Symptoms

Pancreatic cancer begins in the pancreas and in many cases, spreads quickly to surrounding organs in the abdomen. The pancreas has two main functions; it releases enzymes (exocrine) to aid digestion and hormones like insulin to help manage your blood sugar (endocrine). In up to 95% of cases, pancreatic cancer arises from the exocrine portion of the organ.

According to the American Cancer Society, pancreatic cancer accounts for about 3% of all cancers in the US and about 7% of all cancer deaths.

Typically, early symptoms for pancreatic cancer are vague with serious symptoms only appearing once the cancer is in the advanced stages.

Advanced symptoms include:

  • Pain in the upper abdomen that radiates to your back
  • Loss of appetite or unintended weight loss
  • Depression
  • New-onset diabetes
  • Blood clots
  • Fatigue
  • Yellowing of your skin and the whites of your eyes (jaundice)

See your physician if you experience unexplained weight loss or a combination of the symptoms above. While many other conditions cause similar symptoms, early detection is key to giving patients the best chance for recovery.

Risk Factors

While the exact cause of pancreatic cancer is still unknown, researchers have identified a number of risk factors. Controllable risk factors include tobacco use, being overweight or obese and workplace exposure to certain chemicals like in a metal working facility or drycleaner. Risk factors out of the patient’s control are age, gender, race, diabetes, family history and inherited genetic mutations.