This is how you can recognize pancreatic cancer


Although 10,000 people in Germany die of pancreatic cancer every year, early detection of this disease is difficult. This in turn means that the diagnosis is usually only made in the final stage of pancreatic cancer and is therefore often no longer curable.

Important symptoms to help identify pancreatic cancer

In the detection of pancreatic cancer patients, there are no symptoms that appear early and explicitly indicate this disease. The following are some symptoms that should prompt a closer examination of the patient in order to detect pancreatic cancer as early as possible:

  • Upper abdominal pain
  • Indigestion
  • Yellowing of the skin (Jaundice) by restricting the outflow of bile, often accompanied by itching, beer-brown urine and discolored stools
  • Severe and unwanted weight loss, possibly also fever and increased night sweats
  • Thrombosis (Blood clot formation) for no apparent reason (e.g. lying down for a long time with the flu)
  • Diabetes mellitus or any other disturbance of the sugar balance

With all these complaints, however, it must be remembered that they can also have numerous other causes and are by no means a sure sign of a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.

Medical diagnostics to detect pancreatic cancer

If there is a suspicion that a patient might have pancreatic cancer, appropriate diagnostics should be initiated quickly in order to ensure or exclude the detection of pancreatic cancer at an early stage.

1. Medical history

First, the doctor needs one detailed conversation with the patient. V.a. the Above symptoms should be queried become. The doctor will also ask about certain diseases that are often associated with pancreatic cancer (e.g.

  • chronic pancreatitis
  • Peutz-Jeghers Syndrome

and after one familial disposition for this disease. In addition, certain Asked about risk factorsi.e.

  • Smoke?
  • Alcohol?
  • Cysts in the pancreas known?

2. Investigation

Then the patient is examined. Here it is mainly on General condition, Weight and a Yellowing of the skin respected. In addition, the Abdominal exam often the so-called Courvoisier sign. I.e. the doctor can contact a Yellowing of the skin (Jaundice) a palpate bulging gallbladderthat for the patient however not painful is.

3. Blood test

Blood is then drawn. Here you can see whether the function of the pancreas is normal (sugar, lipase, amylase). Signs of bile build-up due to the constriction of the bile ducts caused by the tumor are also looked for (bilirubin, alkaline phosphatase, gamma-GT) and general changes in the context of cancer (anemia) are looked for. If the suspicion of pancreatic cancer is confirmed in a further examination, the so-called tumor markers should also be determined (CA 19-9, CA 50). These later serve mainly to assess the success of the therapy, but not for the early detection of pancreatic cancer. I.e. after an operation they should drop significantly, but if the pancreatic cancer grows again, they rise again.

4. Ultrasound examination

With the help of a Ultrasound examination can quickly and easily create a Change of the organ and the surrounding lymph nodes be recognized. For this purpose, an external ultrasound examination is used through the abdominal wall carried out and on the other hand as part of a Gastroscopy an internal ultrasound scan. You can also Samples of the suspect area These are then examined microscopically and the Degree of degeneration and the Type of cancer can be determined.

5. CT / MRI

In addition, the entire abdomen is displayed with the help of CT (computer tomography) or MRI of the abdomen (magnetic resonance tomography) examination.
Blood vessels can also be shown, some of which are are more common in pancreatic cancer.


Furthermore, with the help of a ERCP (endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography) Investigation a Representation of the pancreatic ducts respectively. To do this, the Small intestine contrast media in the passages injected and there X-rays prepared. Are the Corridors for the digestive juices narrowed by growths in the organ, this can be seen particularly well here.

All of these tests are used to identify pancreatic cancer or other causes. It can also do that Estimated stage of the disease and depending on a therapy to be started.