Know the Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer is the most common type of cancertimes appear without obvious symptoms. The absence of clear symptoms in the early stages and the rapid spread cell cancer to other organs makes cancer pancreas very dangerous.

The pancreas is an organ located behind the stomach. This organ functions to produce the hormone insulin which regulates blood sugar (endocrine function) and produces digestive enzymes to break down food in the intestine (exocrine function). Pancreatic cancer occurs when pancreatic cells grow uncontrollably due to changes in genetic traits.

Patients with pancreatic cancer have the lowest life expectancy compared to patients with other types of cancer, which is less than 4%. This is because the symptoms of pancreatic cancer are not specific, so it is usually only detected when it has spread.

Recognizing and being aware of the symptoms of pancreatic cancer can help detect this disease early, so that treatment can be given as early as possible.

Symptoms of Pancreatic Exocrine Cancer

Here are some symptoms of pancreatic cancer that attacks the exocrine part of the pancreas:

1. Jaundice (jaundice)

Jaundice or jaundice is a yellowish color of the skin or eyes due to an increase in bilirubin. Bilirubin is a yellow-brown substance produced by the liver and excreted into the intestines as bile. Its function is to digest fat.

Pancreatic cancer, especially if it is in the head of the pancreas near the gallbladder, can compress the bile ducts and block the flow of bilirubin into the intestines.

As a result, bilirubin builds up and makes the color of the skin or eyes turn yellow. Jaundice is the main symptom of pancreatic cancer.

2. Stomach pain

About 70-80% of patients with pancreatic cancer experience abdominal pain in the area near the stomach or solar plexus. Pain can be felt through the back or into the waist, and usually improves with bending forward. This pain is caused by the cancer growing larger and pressing on the surrounding organs and nerves.

3. Pale and oily stools

The flow of bilirubin into the intestines is blocked so that the stool does not get enough dye, so it becomes paler. Lack of bile to digest fat in the intestines also makes stools more oily.

4. Darker colored urine

Bilirubin that increases in the bloodstream can pass into the urine and make it darker in color.

5. Itchy skin

Increased levels of bilirubin will make the skin yellowish, and when the levels are very high, the skin will feel itchy.

6. Nausea, vomiting, weight loss, and limp

These symptoms are interconnected. Pancreatic cancer can press on the stomach or duodenum, thereby blocking the flow of food and causing nausea or vomiting.

In addition, pancreatic cancer can interfere with the production of digestive enzymes, so that food digestion is disrupted and appetite decreases. Over time, this condition will cause weight loss and make the body feel weak.

Symptoms of Pancreatic Endocrine Cancer

Enlargement of cancer that occurs in the hormone-producing tissue (endocrine gland) in the pancreas can put pressure on the surrounding organs. This type of pancreatic cancer has the same symptoms as exocrine pancreatic cancer.

But in addition, endocrine cells can release hormones into the bloodstream, causing symptoms that vary depending on the type of cancer, namely:


Cancer in the cells that produce the hormone gastrin will stimulate the stomach to produce more stomach acid. As a result, patients may experience abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, stomach ulcers, and gastric bleeding, resulting in black stools.


This type of cancer produces an excess of the hormone glucagon, which raises blood sugar. As a result, symptoms of diabetes appear, such as thirst, constant hunger, and frequent urge to urinate. In addition, rashes can also appear on the skin.


This cancer produces the hormone insulin. As a result, the patient's blood sugar levels can drop drastically and make him feel dizzy, weak, cold sweats, fast heart palpitations, or even fainting.

Experiencing one or more of the above symptoms does not necessarily mean that a person has pancreatic cancer. Symptoms of pancreatic cancer are non-specific, which means they can also appear in other diseases, such as ulcers in the stomach or inflammation of the pancreas.

Therefore, if you experience symptoms that could point to pancreatic cancer, you should immediately consult a doctor. Through consultation, physical examination, and supporting examinations, such as CT scan, MRI, ultrasound, endoscopy, blood test, and biopsy, the doctor can make a diagnosis and determine whether these symptoms are symptoms of pancreatic cancer or not.

 Written by:

dr. Irene Cindy Sunur