If one or more of the signs and symptoms described here is present, certain exams and tests may be done to find out whether they are caused by pancreatic cancer or by something else.
Jaundice: A yellow color of the eyes and skin is called jaundice. It is caused by a build-up of a substance (bilirubin) that is made in the liver. At least half of all people with pancreatic cancer (and all people with ampullary cancer) have jaundice. While jaundice can be a sign of cancer, more often it is caused by something else.
Pain: Pain in the belly area (abdomen) or in the middle of the back is a very common sign of advanced pancreatic cancer. Again, such pain is often caused by something else.
Weight loss: Losing weight (without trying) over a number of months is very common in patients with this cancer. They may also feel very tired and not feel like eating.
Digestive problems: If the cancer blocks the release of the pancreatic juice into the intestine, a person may not be able to digest fatty foods. Stools might be pale, bulky, greasy, and float in the toilet. Other problems may include nausea, vomiting, and pain that gets worse after eating.
Swollen gallbladder: The doctor may find that the gallbladder is enlarged. The doctor can sometimes feel this and see it on imaging studies.
Blood clots: Sometimes blood clots form in the veins of the legs, leading to swelling. These clots can sometimes travel to the lungs and cause breathing problems. But having a blood clot does not usually mean that you have cancer. Most blood clots are caused by other things.
Fatty tissue changes: Another clue that there may be pancreatic cancer is an uneven texture of the fatty tissue under the skin. This is caused by the release of the pancreatic enzymes that digest fat.
Diabetes: This cancer can cause problems with blood sugar. Sometimes (but not often) it can cause diabetes.
*Information from the American Cancer Society.