Pancreatic cancer has been called a "silent" disease because it usually does not cause symptoms early on. The cancer may grow for some time before it causes pressure in the abdomen, pain, or other problems. When pancreatic cancer symptoms do appear, they may be so vague that they are ignored at first. For these reasons, pancreatic cancer is hard to diagnose early. In many cases, the cancer has spread outside the pancreas by the time it is found. Pancreatic cancer symptoms are different depending on the location and size of the tumor. If the tumor blocks the common bile duct so that bile cannot pass into the intestines, the skin and whites of the eyes may become yellow, and the urine may become dark. This condition is called jaundice.
As the pancreatic cancer grows and spreads, pain often develops in the upper abdomen and sometimes spreads to the back. The pain may become worse after the person eats or lies down. Cancer of the pancreas can also cause nausea, loss of appetite, weight loss, and weakness.
Islet cell cancer can cause the pancreas to make too much insulin or other hormones. When this happens, the person may feel weak or dizzy and may have chills, muscle spasms, or diarrhea. These symptoms may be caused by cancer or by other, less serious problems. Only a doctor can tell for sure.