What Are the Stages of Pancreatic Cancer? Signs, Symptoms, and More

What Are the Stages of Pancreatic Cancer? Signs, Symptoms, and More

The early stages of pancreatic cancer, when it is most treatable, are rarely discovered. This is because symptoms may not begin to appear until the disease has spread to other organs, making it more difficult to detect. The extent of pancreatic cancer determines which therapy choices are available. Surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or a combination of these may be options for treatment.

But before that, let us break down the disease and understand the symptoms of pancreatic cancer.

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The Pancreas

Located just behind the stomach, the pancreas is a tiny, hard-working gland. The pancreas is primarily responsible for aiding digestion and maintaining healthy blood sugar levels. The pancreas’ job is to regulate blood sugar levels by producing the chemicals insulin and glucagon.

Pancreatic Cancer

Changes (mutations) in the pancreas cells cause them to grow out of control and become cancerous. Tissue accumulation is also a possibility. This bulk may occasionally be harmless (not cancerous). However, in the case of the pancreas, it is usually malignant. What causes pancreatic cancer is unknown.

Types of Pancreatic Cancer

Exocrine and neuroendocrine tumors are the two most common forms of pancreas tumors. Exocrine is the most common form of pancreatic cancer, accounting for approximately 93% of all pancreatic malignancies. When someone says they have pancreatic cancer, they are most likely referring to  Exocrine, also known as pancreatic adenocarcinoma, originating in the pancreatic ducts.

How Does Pancreatic Cancer Progress?

There are five stages of pancreatic cancer. The size and location of the tumor, as well as whether or not the disease has spread, will determine your prognosis.

  1. In stage 0, which is also known as carcinoma in situ, abnormal cells are seen in the pancreatic lining. Potentially malignant cells could infect and spread to other tissues.
  2. In pancreatic cancer, stage one, there is a tumor found.
  3. Tumors in the pancreas that have metastasized to other organs or adjacent tissues are referred to as stage 2.
  4. When cancer has spread to major blood vessels near the pancreas, it is said to be at Stage 3. It’s possible that it’s spread to the lymph nodes in the area.
  5. This is the end-stage pancreatic cancer in the timeline, in which cancer has progressed to other parts of the body, such as the lungs, liver, or abdomen. Nearby organs, tissues, and lymph nodes may have been infected by the virus.

Make an appointment with your healthcare professional and explain the details of your condition. Being aware of your prognosis will help you make an educated decision regarding your therapy.

What Are the Signs of Pancreatic Cancer?

Early pancreatic cancer signs include:

  • Dark urine despite high water intake.
  • Itchy skin
  • Loss of appetite
  • Blood clots
  • Digestive issues that further lead to nausea and vomiting
Read on for a closer look at some symptoms that may occur when one has pancreatic cancer.
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People with jaundice have a yellowish appearance to their skin and eyes, and it can also cause itchy skin, black urine, and light-colored or oily feces. Hepatitis and gallstones are the most common causes of cirrhosis of the liver.

So, what are the signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer that include jaundice?

While pancreatic cancer isn’t the most prevalent cause of jaundice, it is one of the most common symptoms and almost always occurs in pancreatic cancer patients.

Bilirubin is typically found in the bile that is secreted by the liver (a dark yellow-brown substance produced in the liver). To facilitate fat breakdown in the intestines, bile passes through the common bile duct before being expelled in stool.

There may be an increase in jaundice when the common bile canal is obstructed (for example, due to pancreatic tumors), but this is rare. To identify cancer at an early stage, clinicians may find tiny tumors that strain on the duct. If you’re suffering from jaundice, you may have a tumor in your pancreas that has migrated throughout your pancreas, as well as to other organs, like your liver.

Inflammation of the upper or middle abdomen/back

Tumors that have grown large enough to push on nearby organs are a typical cause of abdominal pain in people with pancreatic cancer. Pain in the back is also a common symptom of pancreatic cancer because of the tumor’s ability to spread and infect nearby nerves. While pancreatic cancer is the most common cause of back and abdomen pain, other disorders may be to blame, nevertheless, before it turns into a terminal pancreatic cancer symptom, see your doctor.

Vomiting and diarrhea

After eating, nausea, vomiting, and increased stomach discomfort are common symptoms in patients with tumors that have formed towards the stomach’s terminal portion.

Swelling of the liver or gallbladder

Gallbladder growth is possible when a tumor clogs the bile duct. It’s possible that if this is the case, doctors may be able to spot the swelling during an examination. Otherwise, imaging procedures such as a CT scan or an MRI could reveal these cancers as well (MRI).

If cancer has migrated to the liver, the organ may also enlarge. Imaging may also be used to detect this.

Losing Weight

A considerable, unexplained loss of weight, whether accidental or not, is usually a pancreatic cancer risk factor that something is amiss with the body. This is usually ignored but combined with other symptoms, it tends to become obvious why one is losing weight.


Anxiety and exhaustion are symptoms of various medical diseases, including pancreatic cancer. Unexplained exhaustion, regardless of the cause, should not be ignored.


Most early pancreatic cancer diagnoses are the result of medical imaging scans for other conditions, such as diabetes, that have been suspected. Diabetes that becomes difficult to control is a common pancreatic cancer symptom in women.


If I have the first symptoms of pancreatic cancer, when should I make an appointment with my doctor?

If you have any pancreatic cancer symptoms (such as pain or jaundice) that alarm you but have not yet been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, call your physician and discuss your concerns. Reach out to All American Hospice for a free consultation if your symptoms of pancreatic cancer worsen or if you notice any new ones.

When meeting with a healthcare professional, what questions should I ask?

Engage your healthcare practitioner in a dialogue that is open and honest. Remember to ask yourself questions throughout the way, and bring a list of those questions along for reference. Some examples of these inquiries are:

  • At what point in the disease process are you?
  • Which treatments are available?
  • During therapy, what can you expect in terms of unwanted side effects?
  • Can you take part in a clinical trial?
Be sure to stick to the schedule that you and your healthcare practitioner have agreed upon. Keep up with the visits and tests that are scheduled.

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