What are the symptoms of pancreatic cancer?


People with pancreatic cancer often have no symptoms until the cancer has spread (metastasised) to other organs. 

Exocrine and endocrine pancreatic cancers often have different symptoms. 

Symptoms of exocrine pancreatic cancers

  • Jaundice, including yellowing of the eyes and skin, and possibly dark urine, light-coloured stools) and itchy skin – jaundice is often one of the first symptoms of pancreatic cancer  
  • Pain in the abdomen (belly) or back 
  • Weight loss and loss of appetite 
  • Indigestion, heartburn or feeling full   
  • Pale and greasy stools and changes in bowel habits (including diarrhoea, constipation or the feeling of incomplete emptying)  
  • Nausea and vomiting 
  • Feeling tired (fatigue) 
  • Enlargement of the gallbladder or liver  
  • Blood clot in a large vein often  in the leg (deep vein thrombosis), and sometimes in the lung (pulmonary embolism)  
  • Uneven texture in the fatty tissue under the skin 
  • Changes in blood sugar levels, including rare cases of diabetes (in 10–20% of people with pancreatic cancer). 

Symptoms of endorcine pancreatic cancers

Endocrine pancreatic cancers can cause different symptoms, because some of these cancers produce hormones. 

Cancers that develop from functioning tumours produce hormones. An example of this is if a cancer occurs in the cells that make insulin (a hormone that lowers blood glucose levels), too much insulin will be produced. This leads to low blood glucose levels and symptoms such as weakness, confusion and sweating.  

Other symptoms of funding tumours may include:  

  • too much sugar in the blood (diabetes) 
  • a drop in blood sugar 
  • blurred vision 
  • being very thirsty 
  • needing to pass urine more often 
  • reflux 
  • severe watery diarrhoea. 

Cancers that develop from non-functioning tumours don’t produce hormones. These tumours are more likely to be cancerous compared to functioning tumours, however they usually only cause symptoms when they become quite large. Symptoms of these cancers may include: 

  • similar symptoms to exocrine pancreatic cancer  
  • reduced liver function, jaundice, pain and loss of appetite, caused by the cancer spreading to the liver. 

Many conditions can cause these symptoms, not just pancreatic cancer. If you have any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor.