ZocdocAnswersAre pancreas problems often painful?

Question

Are pancreas problems often painful?

Or can they lay dormant for years? My father had pancreatic cancer. I am 32 and scared of getting it as well.

Answer

Depending on the type of disease affecting the pancreas, pain may or may not be experienced by the patient. For example, acute pancreatitis is a very painful condition in which the gland becomes inflamed. Most often, this is due to either excess alcohol intake or the passage of gall stones that become trapped in the pancreatic duct. Abdominal pain is the most common feature of this presentation, and is usually described as central, intense, and radiating to the back. Pancreatic cancer, on the other hand, can often be a painless disease until very advanced stages. If a mass develops in the tail of the panceas away from the common bile duct and pancreatic duct, the mass may enlarge without causing any damage to nearby structures. Eventually, the mass may become large enough or spread to involve the nerves, in which case it can be quite a painful disease. If the mass happens to develop in the area of the pancreatic head, then obstruction of the bile duct may occur, often causing painless jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and skin). If you are concerned about pancreatic cancer, you should talk to your primary care physician about your fears and about your family history.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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