How To Recognize the Early Signs & Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer Stop Pancreatic Cancer

An EARLY diagnosis of pancreatic cancer is crucial to survival. Most victims are diagnosed in the late stages of this disease because the early signs and symptoms often appear to look like something else. It is extremely important to become familiar with the signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer so that doctors can order the correct tests to confirm or deny there is a cancer.

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Vienna Sass
SassE in Vienna, 2015

Lizzy’s Story

1. Unexplained Stomach Pain and/or Cramps

Any stomach pain that is not explained must be investigated promptly. Lizzy felt stomach pain off and on for years. Her pains would appear for a few days, then go away. If you are having unexplained stomach pains, keep a log and make an appointment to see your doctor. In the later stages of the cancer, the stomach pain can radiate to the back, causing…

Lizzy had just moved to Georgia in August of 2018 when her back pain really started to bother her. Previously, she complained of back pain occasionally but didn’t think it was anything serious. By 2018, she believed she had strained her back while lifting heavy furniture. Doctors prescribed her pain medication, which did not work. The back pain was mid-back, in the rib area. She described the pain as if someone was hugging her very hard. After only two months, the pain became excruciating.

Loss of appetite or feeling full, faster than normal causes you to lose weight. When Lizzy moved to Georgia, we went out to eat Indian food. She took four bites of her food and said she was full. I still wanted to eat a lot more. This was a sign of a problem in her pancreas.

4. Feeling Constipated

5. Poop Floats and Appears to be “Oily”

Your stools were meant to sink. If you observe that your poop is now floating along with “oil rings” in the toilet water, you may have pancreatic cancer. Report this to your doctor immediately.

If you have pancreatic cancer, your stool (poop) color will change from common brown to a dark green. Do not ignore this. Green stools are a sign from your bile duct that something is very wrong. Seek medical care immediately.

7. GERD/Acid Reflux/Silent Acid Reflux

GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease is, what happens when acid reflux occurs repeatedly over time. The acid irritates the esophagus and it can be very painful. Most doctors will prescribe medication to help with the acid, but not check for cancer. If you suspect cancer, tell your doctor to order specific tests. Lizzy’s GERD stemmed from the tumor growing in her pancreas.

A “pre-diabetes” diagnosis can be a symptom of pancreatic cancer. Your doctor will order a basic blood panel and then tell you that you are pre-diabetic. Lizzy’s bloodwork always came back normal except that she showed as being pre-diabetic. This baffled us because overall, Lizzy was a healthy eater and limited her sugar intake. The pre- diagnosis was a sign that her pancreas was under attack. If you get diagnosed with pre-diabetes, think about the other symptoms here and if you have any, get tested for cancer.

9. Itchy Skin

You may suddenly feel itchy for no apparent reason, even without a rash or redness. My sister did not have this symptom, but I felt I should share it because it is due to the bile duct not functioning correctly. Some people with early-onset of pancreatic cancer do notice this symptom. Note that her bile numbers were normal in all of her bloodwork until she was diagnosed.

10. Rashes or changes in skin pigmentation

The appearance of red or rashy skin is a symptom that I didn’t observe with my sister. Pay attention to your symptoms and don’t write them off as “nothing.” This sign, along with two or three others should have you wondering if it’s cancer.

11. Loss of Sleep

Lizzy struggled with sleep for two years before her diagnosis. She stated that she woke up “twitching” and could not get back to sleep. Just before her diagnosis, Lizzy said that the pain was so bad that she was unable to sleep. She told me she wasn’t getting 3 hours of sleep per night. This is a sign.

12. Unexplained Muscle Loss or Weakness

Although Lizzy never “complained” of this, looking back, I can recall that I had thought several times that either I was a lot stronger than her, or that she had become inexplicably weaker over a 2-3 year period. I observed that it took her longer to walk up a hill than it should have. Her muscle mass on her body had diminished. Do not ignore loss of muscle mass.

13. Overall body discomfort or “malaise”

Lizzy definitely had this symptom. For the 3-4 years before her diagnosis, she never seemed to feel good for longer than a week. On our trip to Scotland in 2017, I noticed that her eye sockets looked hollowed out (this was right after the CT scan where they missed the cancer). I was always asking her if she had gone to the doctor and, “What did they say?” They said nothing. She complained of specific signs and symptoms and was repeatedly ignored.

14. Different Size Legs

I can’t say for certain if this is a sign, but I can’t ignore it either. Blood clots in the legs (deep vein thrombosis) may also be an EARLY sign of pancreatic cancer when coupled with other symptoms.

About two years before her diagnosis, when I was living with her, she was trying on clothing. We both observed that one of her legs was someone larger than the other. It looked swollen a bit, but we didn’t think anything of it. Looking back, I wish we had known it could mean cancer.

15. Nausea or Vomiting

I don’t know for sure how much nausea my sister felt in the early stages, so this may or may not be an early symptom. I believe that for her, the nausea and vomiting was a result of her stomach and back pain from the cancer. Right before being diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer, she was in so much pain, she could no longer drive to work. When she felt good enough to go to work, she spent the day slumped over her desk, nauseous. She asked to work from home but was not able to due to the nausea and stomach pain she was feeling. It is not normal to spend your life nauseous or vomiting. Seek medical attention immediately for unexplained nausea/vomiting.

16. Yellowing of Eyes (Jaundice)

I am told this is a common occurrence in pancreatic cancer victims. However, Lizzy did not experience this until after the first bile stint had failed. Usually, when a person becomes jaundiced, pancreatic cancer is already in the late stages.

17. Acites or Blood Clots

We never knew that Lizzy had blood clots in her stomach until her doctor called her to tell her she had pancreatic cancer and to go directly to the nearest emergency room. You can watch the video of SassE complaining about cramps in her last video.

18. Feeling a Tumor Move

In June of 2017 (after our Scotland trip), Lizzy texted me to tell me that she had “felt a tumor move” in her stomach. I nearly fainted. Could this be true? If it was a tumor, was it cancer? I told her to see the doctor the next day. She did. The doctor told her that it was “just her sternum” and that nothing was wrong. Please, please, please do not let a doctor write you off as healthy when you know you felt something that doesn’t belong there.

Get Tested for Cancer

Routine bloodwork
CT Scan without contrast


A doctor may order a regular endoscopy to examine your digestive tract. It will find problems in the stomach, but not the pancreas. For an endoscopy to see the pancreas, the doctor must do an endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreaticography, or ERCP. This is a specific test to view the pancreas. Request an ERCP if you are having any of the above symptoms.

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4 responses to “How To Recognize the Early Signs & Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer”

  1. tara Avatar

    hi there! i’m so sorry about your loss. lizzy was loved by so many people, myself included. i just wanted to know if cancer runs in your family, or if it’s common for these symptoms to be pancreatic cancer. thank you in advance🤍

    1. Jane B. SissEsnacks Avatar

      Hi Tara, thanks for writing. Cancer does not run in my family. Yes. It is very common for these symptoms to be cancer. The doctor who finally ordered her CT scan with contrast stated that her symptoms were specific, meaning that she suspected pancreatic cancer or a similar cancer. I hope this helps. Thanks for your question.

  2. Michelle Avatar

    What a tragedy. I’m so so deeply grieved by her loss. SassE was so beautiful in so many ways. I admired her a great deal. We even messaged each other a few times about diet/health. I still watch her videos.

    1. Jane B. SissEsnacks Avatar

      Thank you, Michelle. We love to hear kind words from her subscribers.
      Your words help us heal. God bless you.


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