Digestive problems: Cancer may prevent pancreatic enzymes from being released into the intestine making it difficult to digest foods, especially those high in fat. This may result in significant weight loss (as much as 25 pounds or more) and malnutrition.
Gallbladder enlargement: If the cancer blocks the bile duct, the gallbladder may become enlarged from bile build up. The bile ducts are thin tubes that carry bile from the liver to the gallbladder for storage and to the small intestine for use in digestion. This enlargement may be felt by a doctor during a physical exam or it may be detected by imaging studies, such as computerized tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Jaundice: Jaundice, or yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes, occurs when bilirubin, a breakdown product of worn-out blood cells, accumulates in the blood. Normally, bilirubin is eliminated in bile, a fluid produced in the liver, which is then excreted with the feces. However, if a pancreatic tumor blocks the flow of bile, excess pigment from bilirubin may turn the skin and the whites of the eyes yellow. Urine may be dark brown and stools white or clay-colored. Jaundice is a common sign of pancreatic cancer and occurs in about half of individuals with pancreatic cancer.
Loss of appetite and unintentional weight loss: In addition to weight loss caused by the cancerous (malignant) cells depriving healthy cells of nutrients, weight loss may also result from loss of appetite associated with pancreatic cancer.
Nausea and vomiting: In advanced cases of pancreatic cancer, the tumor may block a portion of the digestive tract, usually the upper portion of the small intestine (duodenum), causing nausea and vomiting.
Upper abdominal pain: Pain is a common symptom of advanced pancreatic cancer. Upper abdominal pain, which is often caused by a tumor pressing on surrounding organs and nerves, may radiate to the middle or upper back. The pain may be constant or intermittent and is often worse after eating or when lying down.
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