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November 03, 2015
Signs, Symptoms & Risk Factors for Pancreatic Cancer
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Signs, Symptoms & Risk Factors for Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer is the 12th most common cancer in the United States. The five-year survival rate for patients with pancreatic cancer varies depending on the stage when the cancer is detected and treated, ranging anywhere from one to 14 percent.

Signs and symptoms for pancreatic cancer are not often apparent. It is important to know the signs for both exocrine and endocrine pancreatic cancer and to talk to your healthcare provider if you are experiencing any of these symptoms or have a concern.

risk factors for pancreatic cancer Signs and Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer

In its early stages, exocrine pancreatic cancer rarely has any noticeable signs or symptoms and those that do occur are very similar to other illnesses. These include:

  • Jaundice – a yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes caused by the buildup of bilirubin in the body (one of the first signs of pancreatic cancer)
  • Pale, greasy stools – caused by a blocked bile duct, preventing bile (and bilirubin) from reaching the bowel
  • Dark urine – caused by an increase of bilirubin levels in the blood
  • Pain in the upper or middle abdomen and back – from pressure of the cancer on nerves or nearby organs
  • Weight loss – due to lack of appetite

Signs and symptoms of endocrine pancreatic cancer depend on the type of pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor (NET), but can include:

  • Gastrointestinal issues (diarrhea, nausea, vomiting or indigestion)
  • Pain or lump in abdomen
  • Abnormal blood sugar levels
  • Gallstones
  • Blood clots
  • Jaundice
  • Gallbladder enlargement

Risk Factors for Pancreatic Cancer

Certain conditions and lifestyle choices can increase the risk of developing both types of pancreatic cancer, such as:


American Cancer Society
Genetics Home Reference
National Cancer Institute
National Comprehensive Cancer Network

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