Jaundice in the last few months

Some people with pancreatic cancer get jaundice towards the end of life.

If you have jaundice, your eyes and skin may turn yellow, and you may feel itchy. You may also feel sick, lose your appetite and lose weight, and feel tired and thirsty.

Jaundice can be a symptom of pancreatic cancer at an earlier stage. But in the last few months, you may get jaundice if your liver isn’t working properly, or if your bile duct becomes blocked by the cancer. The bile duct carries a fluid called bile (which helps with digestion) from the liver to the duodenum.

How is jaundice managed at the end of life?

If you develop jaundice, your doctor or nurse will decide whether you need a biliary drain or a stent.

  • A biliary drain is a small tube that is put through your skin into the bile duct, and drains the bile into a bag.
  • A biliary stent is a small tube that is put into the bile duct to open up the blockage. The cancer can grow to block the stent, causing the jaundice to come back. If this happens the stent may need replacing.

Your doctor or nurse will also treat any symptoms you get. For example, they may give you medicine to help with any sickness or itching. They may also recommend a cream to help with the itching. Wearing loose clothing, keeping the area cool, and drying yourself by patting with a soft towel can all help ease the itching.

Questions about jaundice?

Speak to your doctor or nurse about jaundice.

You can also speak to our specialist nurses on our free Support Line with any questions about jaundice or other symptoms at the end of life.

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Specialist nurse Rachel

Published April 2021

Review date April 2023