Notably, symptoms of cancer of the pancreas unfortunately occur only late into the disease. In general, here are some of the symptoms that commonly lead to the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer (modified from Ref. 1, p.852).
Signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer
|mid abdominal pain||weight loss|
|vomiting due to gastric invasion||bowel obstruction due to tumor invasion|
|severe pain (invasion of splanchnic nerve)||marked appetite loss|
|liver metastases||dark urine, pale stools|
|depression in 2/3 of cases||inflammation of leg veins (thrombophlebitis)|
It must be remembered, the most common presentation is a patient with a gradual onset of weight loss in the light of a lack of appetite and nausea. Likewise, there is some intermittent central abdominal pain. Also, when jaundice develops there are in addition pale stools and dark urine that the patient observes in the bathroom.
Regardless, at this stage the tumor mass has invaded the major biliary tracts. This, of course, causes biliary obstruction, a very poor prognostic sign. The patient might also get suicidal thoughts and complain of a lack of sex drive. These are symptoms of depression, which is often associated with pancreatic cancer.
1. Cancer: Principles &Practice of Oncology.4th edition. Edited by Vincent T. DeVita, Jr. et al. Lippincott, Philadelphia,PA, 1993. Chapter on Cancer of the pancreas.
2. Cancer: Principles&Practice of Oncology. 5th edition, volume 1. Edited by Vincent T. DeVita, Jr. et al. Lippincott-Raven Publ., Philadelphia,PA, 1997. Chapter on Cancer of the pancreas.
3. T Nishihara et al. Jpn J Cancer Res 2000 Aug;91(8):817-824.
4. L Staib et al. Int J Cancer 2001 Apr 1;92(1):79-87.
5. Conn’s Current Therapy 2004, 56th ed., Copyright © 2004 Elsevier
6. Ferri: Ferri’s Clinical Advisor: Instant Diagnosis and Treatment, 2004 ed., Copyright © 2004 Mosby, Inc