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Pain in the upper left abdomen under the rib cage and fear of Pancreatic Cancer

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I have pain in the upper left abdomen under the rib cage. It can also be felt on the upper left side of my torso. The pain is random in that it does not occur after eating or physical exertion. I had a ct scan last week that can back clear however I am still very concerned about pancreatic cancer

Category: Oncologist

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Thank you for asking your query at DoctorSpring.


I understand your concern and will try my best to help you. 

The pain you have described is not very typical of Pancreatic Cancer. I will require some additional details from you in this regard.


1.Does the pain radiates to the back ?

2.Do you have weight loss

3. Any jaundice ? itching ? dark stools ?

4. Any high coloured urine ? 

5. Any loss of appetite, feeling fullness in stomach ?

6. Any other unusual symptoms as a matter of fact ?

Patient replied :

There is a little pain in the back

Weight has remained consistent

Stools and urine look normal

(Stools have been loose but normal color)

Loss of appetite, yes

No jaundice or itching. 



Apologies for the delay in the reply. I was calling in the night for reply, but since there was some technical issue I had to wait.  


Pancreatic cancer is NOT likely in your care. You DO not have any of the characteristic symptom. The single fact that there is no weight loss is against the diagnosis of Pancreatic cancer. If pain is due to a cancer, tumor should be reasonably large, which should have caused the other symptoms I have asked - jaundice , itching, weight loss . Decreased appetite alone is not suggestive or specific. 


So just with your symptoms I would have said pancreatic cancer is not likely. Now you have normal CT report and blood work  ! CT would have definitely showed finding if there was cancer. So no reason to worry. You are safe. 


Wish you good health

Thank you

Patient replied :

What would cause pain in the upper left quad of abdomen under the rib cage (almost on the side of the torso). The pain has become more consistent.

Hello, For how many day / weeks /months you are having this pain ? Is there any cough associated with it ? Do you have any burning sensation in the stomach ?

Patient replied :

Started on July 27th. No cough. Not a burning pain. Almost like a pulled muscle feeling. I've had very very little appetite. The pain is exactly where the tail of the pancreas would be.



The pain should be due a musculoskeletal (probably due to the intercostal muscles and bones) inflammation. This explains why the pain increases in deep breath. 


I hope the appetite issue is a passing affair. Give it some time, the appetite should pick up. (If not this needs to be looked into). But your concept that the pain is there in the location of pancreatic tail is flawed. Pancreatic tail is retroperitoneal and the pain is never directly over the structures over the pancreas (Its a radiating pain). Anyhow as you have several points ruling out any growth ( including CT and blood tests) we can reasonably conclude you are safe. 


You may take an OTC pain relieved like Ibuprofen twice  a day for the pain


Hope this helps

Thank you

Dr. Vineel Pampati
Category: Oncologist
Residency: MD, Kasturba Medical College,Manipal
Medical School: MBBS, College of Medical Science, Bharathpur.
Dr. Vineel Pampati and 4 other Medical Specialists are ready to help you

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