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Worried about pancreatic cancer? Helping you talk to your GP

We know some people see their GP several times before they are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. We have produced these tips to help you talk to your GP.

10 Top Tips

1. The pancreas is part of the digestive system and sits in the upper part of the tummy. Pancreatic cancer symptoms include tummy pain which can spread to the back, unexplained weight loss, loss of appetite, indigestion, constipation, diarrhoea, pale oily floating poo,  jaundice, (yellow eyes or skin and itching), or recently diagnosed diabetes.

2. Pancreatic cancer doesn’t cause many symptoms in the early stages, and symptoms can be quite vague. This makes it hard to diagnose early. Symptoms may come and go to begin with, and you may not have all of them. If you have any of these symptoms, especially if they last four weeks or more, go to your GP. If you have jaundice, go to your GP straight away.

3. Keeping a diary of your symptoms may help you explain them to your GP. Tell them about anything unusual, even if you’re not sure it’s relevant. It might help to take a family member or friend to your appointment and make a note of any questions you want to ask.

4. There is some evidence that age, smoking, being overweight, a family history of pancreatic cancer, pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) and diabetes may increase your risk of pancreatic cancer. But having some of the risk factors doesn’t mean you will definitely get pancreatic cancer, and people may get pancreatic cancer even if they don’t have any of the risk factors.

5. Pancreatic cancer is the 11th most common cancer in the UK. But your GP may only see a new patient with pancreatic cancer about every 5 years. If you are worried about pancreatic cancer, tell your doctor why. You could even take these tips with you to show the GP.

6. If your GP is concerned that you may have pancreatic cancer they will refer you for tests such as a CT scan. Being referred doesn’t necessarily mean that you have cancer. Read more about being referred in our fact sheet, How is pancreatic cancer diagnosed?

7. You know your own body best, so if your symptoms haven’t improved after 4 weeks tell your GP. They will want to see you – you won’t be wasting their time. Keep going back to your GP until you get a diagnosis of what’s causing the symptoms, or are referred for tests.

8. If your GP asks you to come back to see them, make sure you do.

9. Pancreatic cancer symptoms are similar to other health problems such as gallstones, irritable bowel syndrome, pancreatitis or hepatitis (inflammation of the liver). If you have been diagnosed with one of these, but advice and treatment hasn’t improved your symptoms, tell your GP.

10. If you're concerned about pancreatic cancer you can speak to our specialist nurses on our free Support Line on 0808 801 0707 or email nurse@pancreaticcancer.org.uk.