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12 Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer

Written by Kristen Hicks
 about the author
5 minute readLast updated April 10, 2023

As if aging didn’t come with enough health concerns to be on the lookout for, pancreatic cancer disproportionately affects seniors. This type of cancer is serious, but the earlier it’s caught, the earlier your parent can receive treatment. Keep in mind that many of the symptoms covered in this article can also be caused by other health conditions. If you notice any of these signs in an aging loved one, encourage them to make an appointment with their doctor.

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1. Yellowing of the eyes and skin

Pancreatic tumors can block the bile duct, causing a build up of bile. In these cases, a side effect of pancreatic cancer is jaundice, which causes the skin and the whites of the eyes to turn yellow.

2. Discolored urine

Another common side effect of jaundice is urine that’s a darker color than usual.

3. Greasy and discolored stools

This is a third symptom related to jaundice. When the bile duct is blocked, stools turn a pale color. In some cases, they can also become greasy and be more likely to float.

4. Itchy skin

When bile builds up in the body, it can cause itching.

5. Back pain

Sometimes tumors can push against the organs and nerves around the pancreas. This can result in back pain.

6. Belly pain

For the same reason, pancreatic cancer with a slightly different location can press on nerves in the abdomen, causing belly pain.

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7. Loss of appetite

Tumors may press on a patient’s stomach, causing discomfort that makes eating more difficult and less appealing. This can lead to a loss of appetite and weight loss.

8. Nausea

Along those same lines, a tumor pushing on the stomach is likely to cause nausea and vomiting as well.

9. Blood clot

Sometimes the first clear sign of pancreatic cancer is a blood clot. This commonly occurs in one of the large veins in the leg, which is called a deep vein thrombosis. The symptoms of a blood clot include swelling, the skin turning red, and pain.

10. Stomach ulcers

Pancreatic tumors release a hormone that causes the stomach to create a surplus of acid. This can cause stomach ulcers and contribute to nausea and vomiting. If untreated, it can cause bleeding and even lead to anemia.

11. Diabetes

Some forms of pancreatic cancer can destroy cells in the body that create insulin and thus cause diabetes. While having diabetes usually isn’t a sign of pancreatic cancer, the symptoms of diabetes can sometimes the possibility of pancreatic cancer.

12. Fatigue

Another common symptom of pancreatic cancer is a general sense of fatigue

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Each of the symptoms above can be associated with a number of other health issues that are common in seniors. If your loved one is experiencing any of these signs, don’t panic. Encourage them to make a doctor’s appointment to address these changes in their health. The doctor can run tests to determine the underlying cause of their symptoms. If your loved one is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, then an early diagnosis is crucial for receiving timely treatment.


Meet the Author
Kristen Hicks

The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute medical, legal or financial advice or create a professional relationship between A Place for Mom (of which OurParents is a trademark) and the reader.  Always seek the advice of your health care provider, attorney or financial advisor with respect to any particular matter and do not act or refrain from acting on the basis of anything you have read on this site.  Links to third-party websites are only for the convenience of the reader; A Place for Mom does not recommend or endorse the contents of the third-party sites.