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How do I know if my back pain is a sign of pancreatic cancer?

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

Pancreatic cancer is regarded as a silent killer since it’s usually quite advanced by the time it’s discovered. A gland that makes acid to help you digest food, the pancreas is located deep in the abdomen, directly behind the stomach, which is why tumors are often hard to detect. When a cancerous tumor blocks the pancreatic duct, acid backs up and eats away the pancreas, which causes abdominal pain that can often radiate down the back.

Millions of people experience back pain, which is most often muscle-related. Yet, if you have persistent pain that is not helped by anti-inflammatory meds and/or is accompanied by yellowing skin or pale stools, see your doctor to rule out pancreatic cancer.

Lastly, pain caused by pancreatic cancer can be temporarily relieved by bending over, as opposed to typical back pain caused by sore muscles that persist in that position.

Dr. Jill K. Onesti, MD
Surgical Oncologist

Back pain is a rare first sign of pancreatic cancer. Tumors in the pancreas may cause back pain by irritating the nerves in that region. This may present as new-onset pain in the center of your back. This pain is typically present at all times and does not come and go. It is not typically related to activity or any food that you eat. If you notice new back pain, talk to your doctor.

Trinity Health is a Catholic health care organization that acts in accordance with the Catholic tradition and does not condone or support all practices covered in this site. In case of emergency call 911. This site is educational and not a substitute for professional medical advice, always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare provider.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.