Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer: The Importance of Early Detection

Medical illustration of pancreas highlighted within the abdomen

Early-stage pancreatic cancer is primarily treated with surgery. However, only about half of early-stage pancreatic cancer patients in the U.S. are referred to a surgeon or a comprehensive cancer center and undergo surgery. A common misconception about pancreatic cancer is the lack of treatment options and the grim prognosis. But if caught early, pancreatic cancer is treatable and potentially curable. It’s critically important to educate patients about the options and the importance of early detection.

Pancreatic cancer is called a silent killer because it often grows or spreads undetected. And like many cancers, it presents few warning signs. Symptoms often resemble other illnesses, such as diabetes, and may include:

  • Dark urine, pale stools
  • Stools that float in the toilet
  • Middle back pain, that is unrelieved by position change
  • Non-specific upper belly pain
  • Jaundice (yellow skin and eyes)
  • Persistent nausea and vomiting
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Loss of appetite; feeling of fullness

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A combination of two or more of these symptoms should lead to an evaluation of pancreatic cancer, especially for those with a history of tobacco use or someone with a family history of cancer.

By allowing a team of experts like we have at Roswell Park to properly evaluate the stage of disease, patients are offered the best hope for treatment success.

If a patient presents with a more advanced stage of pancreatic cancer, chemotherapy or a new targeted drug treatment may be offered through our clinical research studies. Many of these new drugs are showing great promise in improving response rates, survival rates and quality of life.

If you know someone who has just been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, please spread the word. Pancreatic cancer that is found early enough can be removed by surgery and, in many cases, cured.

For more information, visit our Liver and Pancreas Tumor Center website or call at 1-800-ROSWELL (1-800-767-9355) for advice, to make an appointment, or for a second opinion.

Roswell Park is proud to be one of only 42 centers nationwide recognized as an NPF Center for pancreatic cancer.