Knowing the symptoms of pancreatic cancer can help with early detection of the disease and earlier access to treatment. 

Make an appointment with a health care professional if you have symptoms that worry you.
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Pancreatic cancer symptoms checklist

Know the symptoms

Symptoms of pancreatic cancer may include

Belly pain that spreads to the sides or back

The pancreas is located in the abdomen, between the stomach and spine. As the cancer grows, it can press on nearby organs and nerves and cause pain that may radiate to the sides or back.

Loss of appetite

Cancer can alter metabolism (energy use) and may produce chemicals that suppress appetite. Additionally, the tumour may press on the pancreas and surrounding organs, which can make eating uncomfortable.

Weight loss

This occurs due to a combination of loss of appetite and altered metabolism. The body may also use up more energy trying to fight the cancer.

Yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes (jaundice)

Jaundice happens when pancreatic cancer blocks the bile duct. Bile can't reach the intestines and builds up in the body, turning the skin and eyes yellow.

Light-coloured or floating stools

Blocked bile ducts can prevent bile (which helps digest fats and colours the stool) from reaching the intestines. This results in stools that are lighter in colour or float due to their higher fat content.

Dark-coloured urine

The excess bile in the bloodstream is filtered by the kidneys and excreted in the urine, which makes it darker than normal.

New diagnosis of diabetes or diabetes that's getting harder to control

The pancreas produces insulin, which regulates blood sugar. Cancer can damage the insulin-producing cells, which may result in diabetes or worsening control of existing diabetes.

Pain and swelling in an arm or leg, which might be caused by a blood clot

Pancreatic cancer increases the risk of blood clot formation (deep vein thrombosis), which can cause pain and swelling in an arm or leg.


Key references


Download our guide

Pancreatic Cancer Patient Guide

Easy to read information about diagnosis, treatment, diet and pain management in one place
Download our guide

Patient Nutrition Guide

Helpful ways to manage nutrition during pancreatic cancer and treatment