What are the symptoms of pancreatic cancer?

38 answers | Last updated: Mar 27, 2017
A fellow caregiver asked...

What are the signs or symptoms of pancreatic cancer?

Expert Answers

Senior Editor Melanie Haiken, who is responsible for Caring.com's coverage of cancer, general health, and family finance, discovered how important it is to provide accurate, targeted, usable health information to people facing difficult decisions.

The problem with pancreatic cancer "“ and the reason so many cases aren't diagnosed until an advanced stage "“ is that early-stage pancreatic tumors don't cause many noticeable symptoms. For this reason, it's important to have regular check-ups, as sometimes doctors find tumors during exams. It's also important to know if you have a family history of pancreatic cancer, which greatly increases your odds. (So does smoking; it doubles your odds.) Signs of pancreatic cancer include:

"¢ Weight loss "¢ Loss of appetite "¢ Abdominal pain "¢ Back pain (sometimes radiating from the abdomen) "¢ Jaundice "¢ Fatigue "¢ Depression

Despite the prevalence of high-profile pancreatic cancer cases in the news (Patrick Swayze, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Steve Jobs), pancreatic cancer is relatively rare, striking only 38,000 people a year in the U.S. The most common type, adenocarcinoma in the ducts of the pancreas, accounts for 85 percent of all cases, while the rarer endocrine tumors "“ which have a much higher cure rate"”account for only 15 percent of all cases.

Other signs reported by pancreatic cancer patients:

An inflamed pancreas can cause a number of symptoms that mimic other conditions. Often it may produce too much insulin, causing symptoms that resemble diabetes such as:

"¢ glucose intolerance "¢ diarrhea "¢ chills or muscle spasms "¢ dizziness or weakness

Community Answers

Caligirl answered...

systoms are hard to nail down because it mimics so many otherthings.My husband had diarria, yellow cast to his skin,and intense itching,Ive also heard that your poop floats because you have n fat in it. Hope this helps

A fellow caregiver answered...

My husband had flu like symptoms for days.  He would eat/drink and it would come right back up within minutes.  He really had no fever, diarhea, discoloring or anything but the constant vomiting.  Doctors have a hard time diagnosing because it could be so many things.

A fellow caregiver answered...

My husband has finally received a definitive diagnosis of pancreatic cancer as of th 15th of August. He has a history of chronic pancreatitis. The symptoms of the cancer started in October of 07 with flu like symptoms, including a pain in the middle of the back, burning in the r & l  upper quadrants of the abdomen. There were intermittant severe bouts of nausea, vomiting and diahrea.  There was and still is dramatic weight loss of more than 60 pounds, with no dieting.The symptoms were treated but no tests were done until late January of 08. Still nothing definitive. More tests and a CT with contrast in May 08. Still nothing, although the quality of the CT was terrible. A repeat in July showed that there was a 3cm growth in the head of the pancreas. This was verified at Mayo clinic in August 08. If there is a history of chronic pancreatitis, heavy drinking and/or smoking, a family history of cancer, get to the best hospital you can or at least have your own physicians and hospital give you the records so that you can request a consultation with a Dr at a facility that has a lot of experience with pancreatic cancer. Many times you can make the call for a referral yourself. I hope that this helps.

A fellow caregiver answered...

My mother passed away four years ago from this disease. Yellowing of the skin as well as her eyes was something I noticed (Jaundice was a sign). Sometimes she was fatique (but it may not be unusual because sometimes I think she overworked herself.) She had a lot of  bowel issues (She thought a major company's correctal over the counter medication would solve her issue), but at the same time, she took it quite often. (She was ill, it was really a back and forth thing.)  Unreal, My mother's condition was unoperable because her tumor was attached to her main life line artery (according to the doctors).  I don't think there is a cure for it (according to the statistics). She often had good days ( I couldn't believe she was terminally ill). I think it's a FAST acting cancer! Death from this cancer is inimate. I think I read a book once of one person surviving this disease after a year of being diagnoised)., other than that (I doubt that person is alive today). No one usually survives this disease.  It's just a matter of time. (I found out all my information after-the-fact).  History indiates that there is usallly a history of smoking and drinking. My mother drank heavily  (over 15 years ago) and smoked before she was diagnoised. My hopes were high. I thought she would beat this cancer because she was so strong! I am still in shock because she appeared so well months prior to her death, but then all of a sudden one day, she became really ill. It  was definitely not a consistant sickness where the symptoms are always there.  (When she was well, but yet diagnoised, I just knew she had beat this disease). She cooked dinner for me, cleaned my house, and in some instances continued doing her part time job. Diagnoised in December, hospitalized in maybe February, April, and  July. She passed in August. So this disease is really wierd and misunderstood and a fast killer! This is not a joke, I am for real. I just personally think if you're diagnoised with this disease you might as well prepare your loved ones ahead of time.

Debbiejo911 answered...

My father died of pancreatic cancer.  He was diagnosed on January 15th and died on May 4th.

He had pain in his back and had trouble with his blood sugar levels prior to diagnosis.  His doctor thought he might be getting diabetes.   He went from an active vibrant fun loving person to weak and dying within 2 months.  It was horrible



Bradpittwantsme answered...

My mom died 8 years ago from Pancreatic Cancer.  By the time we finally figured out that there was a real issue it was too late.  She died 3 weeks after being diagnosed.  The first things I noticed were her being especially forgetful such as leaving a pot on the burner and then having it start on fire.  That went on for several months.  Then, she started complaining of having flu-like symptoms.  She had these for MONTHS and never got herself checked.  I also remember emails to me where she described feeling very tired and nervous in her stomach - like butterflies.  The 3 months before she passed away, she started sleeping a LOT, which was highly unusual for her.  I mean bed at 7pm for a woman used to being a night owl.  I remember spending Thanksgiving with her (she died in March) and instead of doing lots of activities with me, she just spent the whole 2 weeks in bed.  So, I would say prolonged flu symptoms and extreme fatigue that does not go away in a normal amount of time would be your first clues.  By the way, others have mentioned yellowing of the skin.  She never had that.  And, we knew she was close to death when she no longer cared what was in the mail that day - she cared up until 2 days before she went to the hospital.

Praying you or a loved one don't have this.


Susan ann answered...

Both my mother and mother in law died from Pancreatic Cancer.  Both were 71 years old at the time of death.  Both did NOT smoke or drink alchohol.  Both had been overweight.  My mother was type 2 diabetic for 15 to 20 years.  My mother was loosing weight with out trying and complained of back pain.  My mother's family doctor dismissed her back pain to arthritis.  He missed the Diagnosis of cancer. 

Both my mother in law and mother had digestive problems over the years.  I found various vintages of Tums and laxitives after my mother had died in her medicine cabinet . Same thing with my mother in law with antacids and stomach medications.   My mother in law had a sensitive digestive system and thought she had IBS or lactose intollerance.  Never quite pinning down a diagnosis.  My mother became jaundice and died 4 months later from pancreatic cancer. 

My mother in law was diagnosed earlier and due to newer chemotherapy drugs available did try them.  I believe chemo drugs worked for about 5 or 6 months before they no longer shrank the tumors and were ineffective.  A  CT scan confirmed her diagnosis of Pancreatic cancer after upper and lower GI testing showed nothing.  She had GI tests because she had a lot of indigestion and adominal pain after eating.  CT scan was ordered after she complained of bloating up like she was pregnant after eating.  Eventually she would throw up her food and liquids and had palative surgery so she could eat.  Mother in law  then fell and broke her arm and hip.  That was the end of Chemo therapy.  She went down hill fast.  Falling a second time and a bruise on her tail bone turned into a pressure sore (bed sore) resulting in a terrible smelling sore which caused sepsis and her ultimate demise.  What a painful and awful death that no one deserves.  Hospice was involved with my mother in law's illness.  They are wonderful. Hospice helps the cancer patient and the family as well in so many ways.



Mrsbossy6 answered...

I agree that this is hard to diagnois but there is hope! I had NO symptoms at all. I had had acis reflux for years but under control with diet. I actually fell and hurt my hip Feb 2007. In April my chiropractor suggested I see my medical doctor.My hip was fine but routine blood work showed my liver enzymes high. I went thru numerous test and 3 CT scans that showed nothing. I did have a bile duct blocked and they inserted a stint. Finally on April30, 2007 I had severe pain and was hospitalized. Another scan finally revealed a tumor on the head of my pancreas.I had a 13 hr surgery on May 15,2007 and chemo and radiation. I refused to give up and never will. I forced myself to stay positive and even returned to work 6 weeks later, which was the hardest thing to do. I have now had 4 CT scans and all have been clear. If you are caring for a loved one, just bee there for them and give them all the support that you can. DO NOT GIVE UP !! My oncologist says, watch for weight loss, change in color of urine or stool, itching or low back pain. All are signs that I never had but that I watch for daily. I WILL beat this and so can others if caught in time.


A fellow caregiver answered...

the first thing, I THINK, is trouble eating. It feels like your food doesn't go down all the  way. pain just above the stomach with back pain.  this isn't always a sign of cancer but possibly excessive alcohol consumption which attacks the pancreas usually before the liver. The pain is tough to take.

Tomsgirl answered...

My father passed from Pancreatic cancer 8 years ago.  He was an extremely healthy man.  Did not smoke and only had an occasional beer on weekends after doing yard work. 

He started having trouble digesting his food and became tired easily.  Then he started itching uncontrollably and then the whites of his eyes turned yellow. 

He was diagonosed in November and had wipple surgery at Duke in December.  It was a horrible decision.  His quality of life after that was awful.  He changed  completely...personality, temperment etc.

It was a very hard illness to watch as he wasted away to nothing. 

It would have been better to control his pain with meds and let him live happily and not so messed up from the surgery and chemo.



A caring nurse answered...

Pancreatic cancer is a horrible disease.  I lost my Dad to the disease 21 days after he was diagnosed as well as one uncle.  I believe there is a clear correlation between alcoholism, cigarette smoking and pancreatic cancer.  In fact a family friend who was a recovered alcoholic and past smoker succumbed to the disease 10 years after AA.  The symptoms were jaundiced sclera and skin, severe abdominal pain , distended appearance to the abdomen (as if he were pregnant ) and  extreme fatigue. I remember all he could keep down in his stomach were ice chips until he slipped into a morphine induced coma. 

A fellow caregiver answered...

My mother died of pancreatic cancer 71 days after diagnosis, but had vague symptoms for months.  She felt bloated a lot of the time and complained of some back pain (which we thought was due to her osteoporosis and osteoarthritis).  She just felt rather unwell.  She did try once dose of Gemzar, which made her very ill, and she went rapidly downhill after that.  She did not smoke and rarely had a drink.

Kellye6845 answered...

My mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in march of 08' , she was 61 years old.  she regularly saw her dr. due to high blood pressure. in nov. of 07' she was diagnosed with diabetes ( which there is NO family history of ) and high liver enzymes, which they pushed aside seeing as one of her blood pressure meds. was known to cause the liver enzymes to rise.  she had TERRIBLE heart burn and lived off of mylanta ... and was in extreme pain thinking it was an ulcer.  she finally couldnt take it and went to the dr. who rushed her to the e.r. , he knew it wasn't an  ulcer.  the ct scan revealed a 4cm tumor on the head of the pancreas and it had metastisized to her stomach liver and left adrenile gland.  now, over a year later, she is in hospice in her final days - it has spread to her lungs , and brain .. horrible disease - my mother smoked for most of her life .... i suggest if you feel something is wrong and the dr. is making light of a situation u should go wit ur gut instinct and have them look into it further

Rustedcity answered...

 A family member passed away recently after battling this cancer for 3 years. We were lucky to have her for so long after she was diagnosed.

She had an upset bowel system,lost about 15 pounds and had an unusual rash around the area of her liver in the year and a half before she was diagnosed. we found out that the rash is one of the early early symptoms.

she was misdiagnosed over and over until she was finally diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. 

Claudia indiana answered...

 My mother was diagnosed in July of 2004 with pancreatic cancer and she died on October 30th of that same year.  Previous to that for weeks or months she was unable to eat without feeling sick.  We were all looking up things about her symptoms online and it seemed to us it was Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), but when she became bed ridden due to being so ill, that is when we got her to the hospital for further tests.  She had already had some tests but the pancreas cancer did not show up.  But, finally in the hospital they found her to have pancreatic cancer. She did not smoke or drink ever, except in her very young years.  She was 77 when she died.  She could not eat anything without getting sick, so as a result she basically starved to death and looked like a victim of the Holocaust.  It was such a horrendous death to see our precious mother wasting away in such a slow torturous way.  It may have only been 3 months from diagnosis that she died but it seemed like an eternity because she was literally starving to death unable to hold even a drink down.  I didn't know how horribly a person could suffer until watching our dear mother die from this horrible disease.  

Dsbsk answered...

In April 2009 my brother was 54 & seemingly healthy.  He rode his bike everyday, worked long hours at his job,(sound technician for bands) & was not overweight.  He complained of a bad stomach ache for about a month. Since he was really never sick, he just thought it would go away. Got so painful he went the ER.  After numerous tests & drainage of 4 liters of fluid from his belly they diagnosed him with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Doctor said it was too late for surgery & did not recommend chemo or radiation because of the bad side effects. He didn't want any of this either.  He passed away 3 1/2 weeks later. It spread thruout his body like wildfire. Very hard to watch him deteriorate so quickly.

Atlmommy68 answered...

I've seen no mention of depression; of the general sense of uneasiness or loss of well being that I have read often accompanies pancreatic cancer. Has anyone had an experience with that? I was a Hospice SW for about 5 yrs so I saw many deaths from every possible natural cause possible.

I would just be interested in an account of how a person, dealing with this illness, may have developed personality changes as a precursor to diagnosis.

Worried in pa answered...

My husband is 63 and has been diagnosed with liver disease. He has been an alcholic for 40+ years. He has lost weight and has an extended stomach. He was tapped 2 months ago and 6 liters of liquid was drained. He now needs to be tapped again. Depression and tired has taken over and naps everyday. He can no longer find the energy to work. These symptons seem to be what I have been reading on this site for pancreatic cancer. My question how do you know if it is liver disease or pancreatic cancer?. We have lost our insurance and he is now at the mercy of the VA. Different doctors etc. every time he goes in.  Any suggestions?

Jacksgram answered...

I am a six year survivor of Pancreas Cancer (Adenocarcinoma, not the more curable type) I am completely cancer free and have been released from the Cancer treatment center. My earky symptoms were uncontrollable itching at night which felt like it was coming from inside my skin and my urine turning bright orange. These came and went however so I didn't take them too seriously. I was 54 years old and in good health. Had never smoked or drank alcohol. I was tired but also in the throes of my daughters wedding plus teaching highschool full time so who wouldn't be. Several friends mentioned to me that I was jaundiced at my daughters wedding reception. (I thought I just looked tan) I went to my first Drs. appt two days after. Luckily my Dr. kept pushing for an answer after the tests came back negative for hepatitis. I was ready to just forget it but he said there was a reason that had happened (the jaundice was gone by then) and we needed to find out what it was. Thank goodness for him! He sent me for an ultra sound then a CT scan on the first day of school and they found a 5cm tumor on the head of the pancreas which had also encapsulated the bile duct and a major artery. Most Drs. would not touch it but I was lucky enough to find one at St. Marks Hops in SLC who would and he did a whipple followed by chemo and radiation and was able to remove all traces of the tumor. It took 12 hours with two surgeons who had a great deal of skill (one was a major transplant surgeon). So....my advice is don't take no for a answer, there is always hope and find a very skilled surgeon.

Dawnella321 answered...

I will be a 3 year survivor in Dec. First to comment on what you wrote. Pancreatic cancer is the 4th leading cause to death amoungst cancers. This year they expect 44K people to be diagnosed and 95% of the people die. It is hard to detect. I had complained to doctors for years with the symptons, but no one would listen. Doctors need to be aware. Novemeber is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month. Educate people about the cancer. One major sign I had was my insulin levels were way up, abdominal pain, fatigue, felt sick for over a year. Doctors had done blood work, etc. but the doctors did not take it a step further to test for more complicated things. I was told to go see that dr. or that dr. I was not allowed to see my primary care until I went to a psychiatris. Thank you, Dawnella

A fellow caregiver answered...

In June 2009 my dad had not been feeling his best for about a month. He complained about stomach pain and back pain. Finally he thought he had a bladder infection or kidney stones, so he went to the doctor. They performed a CT scan of the stomach/abdomen. Results showed a tumor on his pancreas and lesions on his liver. Over the next week, he began to be VERY confused and couldn't do daily functions, such as make coffee! We took him to the doctor one week after the CT scan for his biopsy, they admitted him for his confusion, thinking maybe he had a stroke or a tumor in the brain. Two weeks to the day of the initial CT scan, my dad died. By the time they diagnosed him with pancreatic cancer and secondary liver cancer, he had gone unconsious. We never got to say our final goodbyes or really discuss his illness. I look at his quick dealth as a blessing in disguise. It was a LONG two weeks for my dad, mom, and myself. I could not have imagined him suffering from this for a long extended amount of time. He really did not have any of the symptoms of pancreatic cancer until the month leading up to his death. The horrible cancer was so strong, it was sending toxins to his brain, thus having him not remember things such as the year or how to make coffee. He did remember my mom and I up until his last consious day. I hope and pray for research to be done for this disease. My thoughts are with all the families and loved ones who have experienced this horrible cancer. God Bless. KKV

Deb2010 answered...

My mother was diagnosed with Pancreatic cancer in Oct 2008 at the age of 81. My mother did not drink or smoke, did not eat red meat. She did not fit the statistics of those given for pancreatic cancer. About a year prior to her diagnose, she experienced back pain - pain that ran from side to side that was in the middle of the back close to the shoulder blades. That was attributed to her on-going back problems. She also experienced nausea that limited her eating to milk and bread for fear she would throw up. She did throw up after meals at times. her nausea was attributed to stress. She was also always cold and she developed the "shakes" or hand tremors. Finally She had an ultrasound and then a CT that showed a 3cm mass located on the neck of her pancreas. An ERCP/EUS showed that the cancer had invaded the mesentriac artery, portal vein, and aorta so it was not resectable. She had one round of Gemzar for 6 weeks and afterward 2 PET scans showed no cancer! During her chemo, in Nov and Dec 2008 she suffered a DVT in her calf, blood transfusions. In March 2008 she suffered jaundice attributed to a bile duct obstruction - needed a stent, then fluid buildup in her lungs April 2008, and 2 bouts of pneumonia. She began getting confused around July 2008 and after the bile duct stent went downhill. She died Jan 5th 2010. At the end she looked like a skeleton due to the amount of weight she lost. This is a horrific disease with no early detection and generally is a death sentence for those diagnosed with it. Please join the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network and let's attack this cancer together. Go to http://www.pancan.org. This is supported by Patrick Swayze's widow. Please help.

Cyncyn380 answered...

In July of 2009 my mother wasn't feeling well. She went to her doctor and he diagnosed her with diverticulitis, she continued to feel bad off and on through the middle of October. It took an urgent care doctor to send her for a MRI. On October 20th my mother told me she had cancer. This was a healthy 67 yr old women who didn't smoke or drink. From that point on she was in and out of the hospital. When she was diagnosed her mass was 4cm. in two months it grow to over 8cm, spreading to her kidney's, liver and stomach. We lossed her on the 4th of January. I wouldn't have imanged in a millon years that cancer would have taken her from us. This is a horrible disease! I miss her very much.

Karol68544 answered...

My husband, age 66, was diagnosed w/pancreatic cancer on January 5, 2009, had the whipple procedure on January 25, 2009, the cancer was at the head of his pancreas,head was removed along with the duodenum, jejnum, bile duct, and gall bladder Doc told us he had gotten it all and took 25 lymph nodes and that they were clear and the cancer did not appear to be "angry". They started him on Gemzar in March 2009 as a precautionary measure. He had two treatments and ended up back in the hospital for seven days with very high temperature and very, very ill. Well, needless to say he could not tolerate the chemo. Had CT scans in July 2009, everything still looked good. But, towards the end of October, he was not feeling well, couldn't get in to see the Docs until 5 Nov 2009, had more CT scans, the cancer has come back in the exact same spot. It abuts the superior mesenteric artery, splenic vein, superior mesenteric vein and celiac axis. It does not appear to encase any of these vessels. He has now gone thru six weeks of radiation and an oral chemo called Xeloda. More CT scans were done and it is still there but has not increased in size nor spread. Docs are keeping him on the Xeloda (14 days on 7 days off) and we see the Doc on Monday, 22 March 2010. He is experiencing what they call hand/foot syndrome from the Xeloda. They have told us to use something called Udderly Smooth, which we do use, but still his hands and feet get a plum color and are so sore and sensitive that he can hardly walk or pick up anything with his hands. Does anybody have any suggestions??? May God Bless. Would appreciate all your prayers for my husband.

Pantara answered...

My experience with Pancreatic cancer is similar to Jacksgram. I was 54 as well when I fell ill. I'd not smoked for almost 10 years, had taken up hiking long distances daily for exercise, and watched my diet. I had been known to handle any number of carcinogenic or radioactive materials in my career as a tool and die maker, many of which are now known to cause cancer. The cause is irrelevant. My symptoms were gradually worsening fatigue, rapid weight loss, flu like symptoms without fever, puritis (itchy rash caused by a blockage of the bile ducts. The blood will pick up the excess bile and attempt to pass it out thru the skin)and finally I jaundiced. My wife beat me up and dragged me to the emergency room. Kinda hard to discuss but I will offer this up in the hopes it gets somebody to the doctor in time... My stool was the most noticeable and obvious indicator that something was wrong. It had become clumpy and greenish, no matter what was eaten. It smelled wrong. You all know what you smell like, if it changes drastically and persists, see your doctor. If you don't have a doctor, get one ! I never passed any blood. My trip to the emergency room was interesting. I was questioned about my lifestyle (no unsafe sex, IV drug use, alcohol use or other liver destroying activities) the docs poked me and prodded me after the blood test revealed my electrolyte levels were "all over the place" looking for a gall stone. Finally an enhanced CT revealed a 2cm mass at the head of my pancreas. Further testing revealed it to be malignant. With all speed a Whipple was prepared for me (the assisting surgeon was my wife's breast cancer surgeon. I'd known him for almost two years. He did my pre-op meeting with us and was shocked when we showed as the usual pair and it was me instead. I can't tell you how much comfort that gave me...)The surgery went well. Seven hours on the table for me and my boys. I bet they didn't break for lunch. All the doctors tell me I'm probably toast, that they don't want to make statements that give me false hope. They like to remind me that 96 out of 100 of us die shortly. It depressed the hell out of me when I was healing rapidly and starting to feel pretty good. In a way I don't blame them. If you have Pancreatic, your seeing the Oncologist that gets the worst cases and that professional has had to watch so many of their patients die. Last visit I was still toast but I got a big hug for not only surviving, but looking like a normal healthy human being. I don't know if he'd believe me if I told him a powerful Angel watches over me. But it's hard to argue with results... I was diagnosed in mid February of '09, had surgery on the 2nd of March, did six months of chemo, took my bag of Gemzar three weeks on and one week off and no radiation. So far I'm healthy (although I'm starting to get feeling back along the cut line of my whipple and I can feel where they took a double handful of stomach, intestine and some assorted other bits out of me. I can work, I can hike, I feel pretty good and it's been more than a year since my surgery. I've gained back a lot of what I lost and it I'm not careful, I'm gonna get fat. Don't let your doc freak you out and don't let them depress you with the "your gonna die" stuff. Yeah you probably will. Nobody gets out of here alive, but no need to make it any worse than it is, particularly if your one of the lucky ones that get a few more years.... I will leave you with this. Like any other cancer, early detection can make the difference between success and failure. If you see any of the symptoms I described, SEE YOUR DOCTOR !!! Hope this is of use to somebody....

Meepies answered...

From the time the symptoms show to the time that you realize it's pancreatic cancer and one usually succumbs is very, very quick. Here are some of the real acute symptoms that we noticed and the timeline of when we noticed them in comparison to my mom's death:

September 2009: Mom had just returned from an India trip. Apparently during the couple of months she was there she had a few stomache aches and bowel issues, but assumed that it was nothing because when traveling around a tropical country one tends to have such issues, so she shrugged it off. Allegedly she had a blood test sometime during her stay there, and it revealed pancreatic enzymes that were slightly off.

A week after her return from India, September 2009: Mom had chest pains. Went to the hospital ER They did some kind of a scan (assuming it was a CT) and the ER docs told her that she should get further tests done because there was some mass around her pancreas. Unless my parents were downplaying the situation to spare us, nobody had a real sense of urgency at this point relating to the visible mass.
Mom went home the next morning, said it was not a heart attack and assumed it was indigestion

Two days later: Mom went back to the ER for severe flu-like symptoms. Mom was the last person to really go to a doctor, but due to the swine flu scare and my dad's insistence, she went to the hospital again.

Was in the hopsital for a few days, was given Tamiflu.

From around this point onwards, absolutely no interest in food. We all assumed it was a side-effect of the tamiflu.

Two weeks later, still no appetite. Dad forced her to get an endoscopy. Turns out she had a yeast infection internally. Antibiotics helped with this; her breath started to smell funny but the antibiotics handled it. During this time of the endoscopy, they also took further tests to reveal what it was, etc.

Concise summary here. Gave all the details bc I know when I was searching for info on this I couldn't possibly have read enough. -Blood tests revealing enzyme levels a bit off (first symptom) -Bowel irregularities while on trip -Flu-like symptoms -Chest Pains for a day or two

we had 10 weeks exactly from the date of diagnosis till her death. For the first week, she was tired but able to go around to the different hospitals and meet with the doctors, etc.

Second week, started to get real pains on one side of her stomach, had to sleep in a funny seated way with a pillow held against it to gain some releif.

Third week, started to do worse. Could make conversation for about a half hour at the most, losing interest in a lot of things.

Fourth week onwards, spent about 95% of her time in hospitals. She went in and out of a local hospital a couple of times when she started developing the ascites. By week 6, she checked into the hospital at Penn. Went through a variety of procedures including a feeding tube. Unable to really sustain a conversation, and even when awake was rarely "there." Maybe a few sentences a day when she was really with us.

I don't want to ramble and fear that I already have, but we have just gone through this and I remember how much I wanted to be able to talk to somebody who had been through it and who knew more. The nurses were wonderful, but not having been in the same shoes they could only tell us so much. Plus, they had to remain balanced between professionalism and pragmatism. I can only answer questions about our own experience, but if that would be helpful to anybody or if you need to talk to somebody about what you're going through, feel free to email me. It breaks my heart whenever I hear that somebody else is facing this.


Wizard33639 answered...

My mother died on march 22,2009 of pancreatic cancer. She was a very healthy vibrant woman until all of a sudden she began to lose weight rapidly. She thought it was due to all the Tai Chi she was doing but I kept telling her something was wrong. Her and I both had Acid Reflux for years, she began to have severe abdominal pain so they did tests and found stage 3 pancreatic cancer, she also had yellow skin by then. Since her death I have done a lot of my own research and reading up on this disease. I found out by researching my mothers history that only a couple of years before her death, she had done a womans hormone study at the U of A in Tucson, Az. They were giving her Estrogen Therapy. We have no history of this kind of cancer anywhere in our family. So my theory is either it begins with Acid Reflux and or other digestive troubles or the Estrogen played a part somehow. I am still reading every thing I can find on this disease. I believe the trick to finding the cure and the cause will be in finding the pattern or patterns of symptoms that develop that each pancreatic patient has in common. I think it could also be something in our food chain?? Gluten is hard for some people to digest, maybe that could be a link also. Gluten to a sensitive person destroys small intestine Villi. My mother had what is called the "Whipple Procedure" They remove the head of the pancreas, they took out part of the stomach and part of the small intestine, she fought this for 3 long painful years. unfortunatly the cancer did return and along with it congestive heart failure. she was in so much pain she was taking vicodin like candy. Oh and here is an interesting point. I recently cut Gluten from my diet, my Acid Reflux is completly gone. I am also on chinese herbal tea and doing regular exercise and losing some weight at a normal rate.

Mike from texas answered...

I consider this a "coward" of a disease....few symptoms. This hit my big brother; I'm am 59, but it still hurts like hell. First symptoms a 10 pound weight loss in one month. No history in family. Family doc did blood test, labs etc until I put my brother in the E.R. Even yellow skin did not make our family doc react with nothing more than "more blood tests". His belly was bloated, edema widespread, coginitive impairment, orange unrine, general weakness, but one blessing.....NO pain, anywhere. Within 9 hrs in E.R., after CT I think,they had the answer.....pancreatic cancer that has spread to the liver, pnuemonia in lungs. NOTHING could be done. I took by big brother home to die in his own bed. Found a good Hospice facility that would help me at home to the "last moment" then would take over pain med. management to ease the exit. Of coursre, I will incist on CT of my pancreas every 6 months to yr. But even then, it's a crap shoot. I can't tell you how pissed I am. Word of advice. No matter how much you love your family doc; get a second opioion. YES, difficult diseaes to diagnosis, but too many docs get lab work back and assume the "xyz' result on the lab is the "cause" of the problem, when in realilty it is only a SYMPTOM of the cause. Requires more that a good doc, but a creative thinker, chess player, think several moves ahead.......I wonder if this "cause" of the symptoms might really be a CAUSE of the real problem. I do not know if it's a money problem, insurance deal or what.....but I miss my big brother. During the last nights of his life, I sleep on the floor at the foot of his bed, in case he had a need I could address. I only hope this might get some one to question their docs; rememeber, they really are not gods, just people, with the flaws we all have Mike (my big brother was Jimmy); I miss him so much.

Caregiver88 answered...

Oct 2010 - For several weeks I had noticed my husband losing weight. He'd always been thin but this was pretty quick and noticeable. And his diet had not significantly changed. He and I had been dealing with managing severe COPD for 12 years and he'd been doing exceptionally well according to his docs. (sidenote: it is common for COPD patients to develop pancreatic cancer but no one tells you that)

Took him to family doc who checked his blood and pronounced him in fine health except that he seemed to have blood markers that said he was ill nourished.

Nov 2010 - went into ER with severe abdominal pain. Doc diagnosed ulcer and sent him home with ulcer meds.

January 2011 - ER with pneumonia diagnosis; they did a CT for the pain he was still having (when eating) that we told them had been diagnosed as an ulcer and they found the tumor 3cm on his pancreas head (detailed look showed no veinous involvement at that point). They also diagnosed Congestive Heart Failure.

They did an ERCP and placed a plastic---and then a week later a metal ---stent in the head of his pancreas to open up the duct that was being pressed closed by the tumor.

Once the pneumonia resolved, they started him on Xeloda (oral chemo) and radiation therapy at what his MDA oncologist said was a 'blitzkrieg' pace. After 3 months of treatment his CA19 blood markers had gone down to 47 (i believe 38 is normal) from a high of around 150. No growth was seen on the tumor. We were in and out of hospitals for different things related to the PC for the last 9 months.

Jan 2012 - he started feeling more pain and finally did something about it in February. They increased his Fentanyl patch (great drug for the most part) to 125 mcg/h but he continued to have problems with pain until a few days ago (April 2012) when he could no longer hold down food or water without vomitting.

They think his stent is becoming obstructed---because he developed a rash on his abdomen consistent with bile duct obstruction in addition to pain and vomitting--- since they are not designed to stay open longer than 9 months or so. So we are awaiting CT results to confirm their suspicions and replace the stent.

We've used a myriad of alternative treatments that have helped with a lot of the side effects and kept him positive emotionally. One of the most important is a pharm grade multivitamin (LEF.org has it) And there's a bentonite clay based cream that works WAY better than Udderly Smooth. It draws out the Xeloda chemo that is trying to work its way out of the body (through the skin of the feet/ankles) and heals it quickly, about 3 days.

Honestly, the best thing I feel like we've been able to do is make what time he has been given as symptom free as possible. The depression and anxiety caused by the pain meds and other treatments are real and crushing. We use GABA and HTP (trytophan version) to help with the anxiety and phospholipids to help with the depression. It's been a godsend. And the Coenzyme Q10 and fish or krill oil has kept his heart going well enough to shock his heart doctor who is excellent in every way. Soon enough we able to quit taking the pills that reduced edema because the COQ10 and fish/krill oil had done such a good job.

I don't want to give false hope but there are many things you can do that will help ease your loved ones suffering even if you can't save them. This has been a much better focus for us given the current state of PC research and treatment.

I'm not a nutritionist or anything but if anyone wants to chat, just email progevalamy@aol.com


De thomp answered...

My mum died this year from pancreatic cancer. She was told on 9th May that is was pancreatic cancer and she died 9 days later on the 18th. The first sign of any problem was in the match when she was treated for a blocked bowel duct and nothing else was found. 2 months later she was gone - just cruel.

Paul uk answered...

hi all,i have pancreatic cancer,i have had a tumour removed along with my spleen but they think one has returned,the symptoms i found,eventually,were pain in my stomach almost as soon as i ate or drunk anything and whatever i did eat was coming straight back up,there is a constant pain in the stomach,although not an unbearable pain,believe me you know its there also i couldnt keep awake for much more than a few hours making but always feeling tired and not having any energy,i hope this helps anyone reading this.

Mklee2005 answered...

I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer when I was in June 2004 and it presented like appendicitis. I couldn't hold anything down and the pain was unbearable. Went into the ER and that's where the whirlwind began. I had all sorts of tests, given meds for pain and nausea, and transferred to a major trauma center. They removed the tail of my pancreas and spleen (it was affected). In two months I will be 10 years cancer free and a rare survivor of the pancreatic death sentence cancer. I was and am a healthy individual who has taken care of myself, but still got it without a family history. Like everything else everyone will present differently, but if you are experiencing pain, weight gain/loss, having issues holding food down, etc. be seen and evaluated to make sure.

A fellow caregiver answered...

I've been reading quite a bit about alternative cancer treatments and one that seems to be pretty successful for pancreatic cancer is Gerson Therapy. It's been mentioned in a lot of their documentaries and books. I wish that alternative treatments were made more known to people when they are diagnosed with cancer so that they can make a more informed decision about their treatment.

Seven of love answered...

It was 9 weeks from diagnosis to death for my mother when pancreatic cancer chose her. However, the months leading up to her diagnosis were fraught with vague and not so vague health concerns. She was often tired, however, she was 87 years old. She wasn't very hungry, however, being the daughter of a butcher she was a lifelong meat eater. She was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes 6 months prior, her internist referred to this as "pancreatic fatigue". She reacted badly to all oral diabetic medications. In addition to this she had bad breath, something she never manifested as she maintained impeccable oral care. The most striking health concern in hindsight was mom started having rapidly appearing and advancing basal and squamous cell skin cancers all over her face and legs. I know skin cancer is common in older people, however, mom was never big into taking sun. Ever. In the back of my mind I knew her immune system was being assaulted but didn't suspect the worst. That said, there is no history of pan can in my mom's family and her lifestyle was in complete conflict with developing pan can. Originally the doctors suspected colon cancer as mom's red blood count was perilously low. She needed repeat transfusions. This they said was the reason for her fatigue. They suspected her daily 81mg aspirin caused gastric varicoceles. I wish. She underwent an abdominal CAT scan and there it was, a huge tumor in the body of her pancreas. One year prior she had a very high resolution CAT scan and it was perfect. She was told she had 3 months to live. I wish. I hate, hate, hate this cancer. Not so much because of my loss but because it seems to be choosing younger and younger people.

Suzzy54 answered...

Everything I read sounds like my time is very short!Had all bloodwork done but the doctor forgot to tell me the results.For a few years I have been very sick with pain in left side but I find it strange that I Am always starving,so hungry that I cry and then eat like a wolf.I was addmited to the hospital in June and the doctor on call had a specialist come in to see me,they run lots of tests and found as they have 5 years ago that my pancreas is not draining properly and I was supposed to go back for the second mri,I never went back and now I am very,very sick..on the reports for my insurance I did see pancreatis and cancer but they took the papers from me,sealed them and sent them in to my insurance.I have lost lots of weight when it first started 5 years ago but mt doctor is useless ;-(Always blood in my urine and when no blood it;s very odd color and smells very bad.Stress,I am under so much stress and that doesn't help.

Andyd answered...


I just read your post even though it was from 2009. My name is Christina and here is my story:

On January the 15th my entire family (mum, dad, sister and husband) caught bronchitis. They were all put on antibiotics and within a month were all clear apart from my dad who took 4 courses of antibiotics which still didn't work. On the 15th of February the doctor ordered a blood test for my dad as he felt something was not ok! When the results came back, they showed that his liver enzymes were very high and then he was admitted straight away. On the 16th of February all the test started and on the 17th they confirmed that they found something on his lung and liver. A week later he went for a biopsy and the hospital sent him home until the biopsy results came back. On the 28th of February we were informed that he had a Neuroendocrine tumor which started on the Pancreas and had spread to his liver, kidneys, nymph glands, lungs and throat. Even though a very rare and aggressive type of cancer, we were told that chemo could make a huge difference so we agreed to it as they said that if effective he could live a normal pain free life for 1 year or more. We all agreed as a family that if it was just going to keep him alive with pain we didn't want that for him but as they were so positive about treatment we agreed. They told us they needed a week to get the correct chemo and treatment together and then he would be admitted to start. Before the week was up, my dad became very very ill and taken back to hospital and had a blood test. He had caught the virus Legionella so he had to go back on antibiotics to fight this before he could start chemo. He didn't make it though and on the 12th of March he peacefully went to sleep. The only thing I can say is that he had 3 weeks in and out of hospital but without pain and went very peacefully. Thank God he did not do the chemo as this would have just made him suffer for an extra week or so as the cancer was too far along.

Now a month after his death we are suffering so much and I miss him so badly it really hurts. I cry all the time and he is all I think about. He was an amazing husband and father and was special to everybody. I was so close to him and I can't believe he is gone. He was almost 69.

Will this pain ever go :(


Best regards,

A fellow caregiver answered...

I had high abdomen pain that would go all the way through to my back it was so terrible that it would suck the life out of me. I had this pain for close to 25 years it would come and go many emergency room trips found nothin many places even accused me of being a drug addict and in withdraws and when the cancer was finally found in my pancress I was 48 years old and the whipple was preformed on me at the University Hospital in chappelhill nc. And it has been 2 years and so far I have been cancer free but as of late the same kind of pain has returned somewhat but I am still alive after 2 years and was told when it was found that I only had 6 months to live that the whipple might add some time to that I'm working on my 3rd year cancer free other than some pain every now and then I just don't worry about it and tell my self that I am going to live for ever lol