A mass in the pancreas, which is discovered through imaging tests, is one of the bases of a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, the symptoms of which include yellow skin, itchy skin, weight loss and abdominal pain, explains WebMD. Doctors perform a biopsy to diagnose pancreatic cancer accurately.
The symptoms of pancreatic cancer often manifest only after the cancer cells have spread to other areas, notes WebMD. Pancreatic cancer affecting the head of the pancreas usually causes yellow skin, weight loss, light stool, dark urine and itching, while pancreatic cancer in the pancreas' body typically causes weight loss and stomach or back pain.
Most patients with pancreatic cancer suffer gastrointestinal symptoms, including abdominal pain, bloating, nausea and diarrhea, because the cancer grows near vital parts of the digestive system, states WebMD. When the cancer starts to spread, patients experience symptoms affecting the whole body, such as lack of appetite and increased blood sugar levels.
To diagnose pancreatic cancer, doctors initially study a patient's medical history and perform a physical exam that involves checking for a mass in the abdomen and other symptoms, states WebMD. They also order lab tests to discover abnormalities such as blockage of bile flow. Upon detecting a mass in the pancreas through an imaging test, doctors obtain a tissue sample from the mass by performing a biopsy.