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Pancreatic cancer is hard to diagnose so is often found too late. Are there any signs to watch for that might help get diagnosis earlier?

By August 22, 2011 - 6:50am
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Thanks. I need to make an appointment. Really, Thanks for the concern and help.


August 31, 2011 - 9:12am

Have had several family members with other cancers, but no pancreatic. It's a little embarassing but I have been having very light colored stools and it worries me. Thanks for your answers.


August 29, 2011 - 8:33pm
(reply to craftybarb)

Hi Barb,

That's nothing to be embarrassed about-- it's actually great that you noticed the change in stool color since most people pay no mind to these important changes. Please inform your doctor so that he can best determine what could be the cause.


August 30, 2011 - 8:49am

Hi craftybarb,

Thanks for your question. With Pancreatic Cancer, although not really preventable, you can make some changes in your lifestyle to help decrease your risk factors.

Risk Factors include:

Age: 40 or older
Sex: male
Smoking and using smokeless tobacco (eg, chewing tobacco) *¹
Chronic pancreatitis , hereditary pancreatitis, family nonpolyposis colon cancer syndrome
Family or personal history of certain types of colon polyps or colon cancer
Family history of pancreatic cancer (especially in Ashkenazi Jews with BRCA2 [breast cancer associated]) gene
High-fat diet

Pancreatic cancer does not cause symptoms in its early stages. The cancer may grow for some time before it causes symptoms. When symptoms do appear, they may be very vague. In many cases, the cancer has spread outside the pancreas by the time it is discovered.

Symptoms will vary depending on the location and size of the tumor. Symptoms include:

Loss of appetite
Unexplained weight loss
Pain—in the upper abdomen, sometimes spreading to the back (a result of the cancer growing and spreading)
Jaundice —yellowness of skin and whites of the eyes; dark urine (if the tumor blocks the common bile duct); tan stool or stool that floats to the top of the bowl.
Weakness, dizziness, chills, muscle spasms, diarrhea (especially if the cancer involves the islet cells that make insulin and other hormones)
These symptoms may also be caused by other, less serious health conditions. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should see a doctor.

For more info, please visit our Pancreatic Cancer page: https://www.empowher.com/condition/pancreatic-cancer/symptoms

Hope this helps,


August 22, 2011 - 7:11am
(reply to Rosa Cabrera RN)

Thank you so much for taking the time to respond to my inquiry, I am sure you are a very caring nurse. The information is useful and I will be talking to my doctor about it. Is there any specific testing that I should ask my doctor to perform?


August 23, 2011 - 4:27pm
(reply to craftybarb)

Hi Barb,

You are very welcome and thank you for the kind words.
Do you have a family history of Pancreatic Cancer or any other reason to believe you may be at risk?

If so, The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam may be done. The doctor may order blood and urine tests, as well as check for hidden blood in bowel movements.

Tests may include:

Upper GI series—a series of x-rays of the upper digestive system taken after drinking a barium solution

CT scan —a type of x-ray that uses a computer to make pictures of structures inside the abdomen

MRI scan —a test that uses magnetic waves to make pictures of structures inside the abdomen

Ultrasonography—a test that uses sound waves to find tumors

Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) —a type of x-ray that shows the pancreatic ductal system after dye has been sent through a tube down the throat and into the pancreas

PTC—a type of x-ray test that shows blockages in the bile ducts of the liver

Angiography —x-rays of blood vessels taken after an injection of dye that makes the blood vessels show up on the x-rays

Biopsy —removal of a sample of pancreatic tissue to test for cancer cells

Best Wishes,

August 24, 2011 - 9:44am
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