Signs and Symptoms

In most cases, symptoms only develop after pancreatic cancer has grown and begun to spread.

Early-stage pancreatic cancer rarely causes signs or symptoms, which can make it hard to diagnose. Symptoms often only appear once the cancer is large enough to affect nearby organs or has spread. Symptoms can also be vague and come and go with varying severity for each person.

The symptoms listed below do not necessarily mean that you have cancer and can be caused by other, less serious conditions.

However, if you are persistently experiencing any, or several of the following symptoms we urge you to see your doctor and reference pancreatic cancer. If pancreatic cancer is found early, it is more treatable.

Signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer include:

  • Abdominal and mid-back pain
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Yellow skin or eyes
  • Change in stool
  • New-onset diabetes
  • Digestive problems
  • Loss of appetite

Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumours (PNETs) produce excess hormones, they can also have symptoms such as:

  • Too much sugar in the blood (hyperglycaemia)
  • A drop in blood sugar (hypoglycaemia)
  • Blurred vision
  • Excessive thirst
  • Increased urination

If you would like to find out more detailed information about signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer go here.

Early detection and screening tests

Early detection

Currently, there is no established way to test or find pancreatic cancer early. There are several reasons for this, including:

  • The location of the pancreas, deep inside the abdomen makes it difficult for a doctor to feel or see a tumour during a physical exam.
  • Symptoms of pancreatic cancer are often vague and develop over time.
  • There are no proven biomarkers (molecular signals) that can be tested to indicate early-stage pancreatic cancer.

PanKind is working with the research community to better understand pancreatic cancer biomarkers and develop tests for early diagnosis. 


Screening tests help detect cancer in people who do not have any symptoms. There are useful screening tests for certain types of cancer, such as breast cancer and bowel cancer. 

Currently, it is not possible to test all the population for pancreatic cancer, however, there are some programs in Australia screening people at high risk of pancreatic cancer. Screening cannot stop you getting cancer, but it can help to find it early when it is much easier to treat or cure. 

If you are concerned you may be at a high risk of pancreatic cancer, please speak to your doctor.

To learn more about familial pancreatic cancer or to register for a screening trial in Australia, please visit the Australian Pancreatic Cancer Genome Initiative or contact the screening trial coordinator, Tanya Dwarte

Always consult your doctor or health professional about any health-related matters. PanKind does not provide medical or personal advice and is intended for general informational purposes only. Read our full
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