If you have any symptoms of pancreatic cancer, they need to be checked by your doctor.

What is pancreatic cancer?

Pancreatic cancer is a cancer of the pancreas, a body part in your tummy (abdomen) that helps turn the food we eat into energy.

The pancreas also makes several hormones, including insulin which controls sugar levels in the blood.

Like the rest of the body, the pancreas is made of tiny 'building blocks' called cells.

Pancreatic cancer begins when these cells grow abnormally.

Cancer is a disease of the body's cells. It starts in our genes. Our bodies are constantly making new cells, a process controlled by certain genes. Cancers are caused by damage to these genes. As the damaged cells replicate a lump or tumour is formed. 

Tumours can be:

  • Benign - not cancerous. These do not spread to other parts of the body.
  • Malignant - cancerous


Pancreatic cancer symptoms

Symptoms of pancreatic cancer may include:

  • pain in the tummy
  • not feeling hungry
  • feeling ill and vomiting
  • weight loss for no reason
  • changes in your bowel habits (going to the toilet) with diarrhoea, constipation or the feeling of incomplete emptying
  • yellowing of the skin and the whites of your eyes (jaundice)
  • dark coloured pee (urine)

Early-stage pancreatic cancer often doesn't cause symptoms.

Having these symptoms does not mean you have pancreatic cancer, but it is important to get any changes checked by your doctor.

Tips for talking to your doctor

  • make a list of what you are feeling and how often it happens, including as much detail as possible
  • think about your family/whānau history of cancer and tell your doctor
  • go back to your doctor if you don't feel better, even if tests show you don't have a problem - you can ask for a second opinion if you want one 
  • take a family/whānau member or friend with you to the appointment for support
Need someone to talk to?
8:30 am to 5:00 pm Monday to Friday
0800 226 237 Information nurse

We know that going through cancer is tough and can raise many questions. You are not alone.

We have nurses and counsellors to answer your questions and provide the support you need. Get in touch

Last updated: July 1, 2021