Signs & Symptoms

Pancreatic cancer may not cause any signs or symptoms in its early stages. Signs and symptoms often appear as the tumor grows and causes changes in the body.  The symptoms can be confusing to both patients and healthcare providers because they are vague and non-specific and occur much more commonly with other conditions.  

If you are experiencing one or more of the following symptoms, we urge you to speak to your doctor immediately and reference pancreatic cancer. 

Pain in the upper abdomen or back

This nonspecific symptom commonly occurs with pancreatic cancer and may worsen when lying down or 3 to 4 hours after eating. Large tumors that press against nearby organs can cause pain. Pain can also result if the tumor blocks the digestive tract.


Jaundice is a condition marked by yellowing of the skin and eyes, dark urine, and light-colored or greasy stools. Jaundice is the result of a tumor completely or partially blocking the bile duct, slowing the flow of bile into the small intestine. This leads to an increased level of bilirubin, a liver byproduct secreted in bile, in the blood.  

Changes in stool color

Stools become pale and clay in color. This is often due to blockage of the bile duct. Stools can also have an odd, strong smell or float if they have too high fat content. 

Loss of appetite and unintended weight loss 

Cancer-induced weight loss is a complex problem that affects the way the body uses calories and protein. Cancer 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. 


Diabetes is a condition in which the body does not make, or properly use insulin. Insulin helps the body use glucose (sugar) efficiently. Research suggests that a sudden onset of type 2 diabetes in people age 50 or older may be an early symptom of pancreatic cancer, especially in those who have a low body mass index (BMI), experience continuous weight loss or do not have a family history of diabetes. A sudden change in blood sugar levels in diabetics who previously had well-controlled diabetes may also be a sign of pancreatic cancer. 

Nausea and vomiting/digestive issues

Nausea, indigestion and poor appetite are common symptoms in people with pancreatic cancer. Digestive issues can be caused by the tumor pressing against digestive organs or blockages of the pancreatic duct. 


The definition of fatigue is extreme tiredness. Severe fatigue can make it difficult to get up in the morning and make it through the day. Many conditions and lifestyle factors can cause fatigue, which is why this symptom is often overlooked. 

Overall skin itch

This is a less common and a vague symptom that is usually coupled with other symptoms like abdominal pain or jaundice. 

Diarrhea and constipation

When the nutrients in food are not absorbed properly, you may experience diarrhea. This can cause a loose stool that is watery, oily, and foul-smelling. Constipation is a common problem, particularly in patients taking pain medications. These medications slow the passage of food through the intestines.  

Pancreatic Cancer North America

442 5th Avenue #2873
Manhattan, NY

Toll Free: 1-844-274-3640

Pancreatic Cancer North America is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit recognized by the IRS. Tax ID #84-5185853. Any contributions to Pancreatic Cancer North America are tax-deductible as permitted by law.

Pancreatic Cancer North America is proud to work in partnership with Pancreatic Cancer Canada.