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Visiting your GP

Give your GP a good description of your symptoms, including any changes to your bowel habits. It can help to keep a diary of your symptoms and how often you have them. Mention anything unusual to your GP, even if you are not sure if it is relevant. If your GP asks you to come back and see them at a later date, make sure you do.

Some people see their GP several times before getting a diagnosis. If you have unexplained symptoms that last four weeks or more, go back to your GP until you get a firm diagnosis, or a referral for tests to find out what’s causing them.

Read our 10 Top tips for helping you talk to your GP.

What will happen when I see the GP?

  • Your GP may ask whether you have had any problems with eating or digesting your food, and whether you have had any changes with your bowels.
  • They may ask whether you have been losing weight without intending to.
  • They may examine your tummy for any swelling and to check if it is tender or painful.
  • They may look at your eyes and the colour of your skin for signs of jaundice.
  • They may take a urine or blood sample.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) provide guidance for health professionals. NICE have produced guidelines for health professionals diagnosing and caring for people with pancreatic cancer. Health professionals don’t have to follow these guidelines, but they must take them into account when making decisions about your care.

These guidelines cover England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Scotland do not follow the NICE guidelines, but have developed their own guidelines for referring people with suspected pancreatic cancer.

Some of the NICE guidelines are included in our information on diagnosis. Read all the NICE guidelines for pancreatic cancer.

Will the GP refer me for tests?

Your GP may make a request (refer you) for tests at hospital to work out what is causing your symptoms. Read more about the tests used to diagnose pancreatic cancer.

If you have jaundice, your GP should refer you urgently for a CT scan. Your GP should also refer you for a CT scan (or ultrasound scan if a CT scan is not available) within two weeks if you are over 60 and have unexplained weight loss and any of the following symptoms:

  • tummy or back pain
  • nausea or vomiting (feeling or being sick)
  • diarrhoea (loose, watery poo)
  • constipation (problems opening the bowels)
  • or you have been diagnosed with diabetes in the past year.

Being referred urgently does not necessarily mean that you have cancer.

If you are very unwell, your GP may send you straight to hospital. Or you may go to accident and emergency (A&E) yourself. For example, you might go to hospital because you have severe pain. Once you are in hospital, the doctors can assess your symptoms and do tests to work out what’s wrong. They can also treat any symptoms you have.

How long will I have to wait for my tests?

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland if you’ve been given an urgent referral for a test or scan because of suspected pancreatic cancer it should be done within two weeks. If you haven’t heard anything within two weeks, speak to your GP.

Scotland do not have a two week urgent referral time for pancreatic cancer. But you will be referred as quickly as possible.

If your GP doesn’t suspect cancer and you haven’t been given an urgent referral, you may have to wait several weeks for tests.

People with pancreatic cancer can start to feel very unwell quite quickly. If your symptoms get worse or you start to feel more unwell while you are waiting for tests, speak to your GP, as you may need to be seen sooner. They can also help you manage symptoms.

Questions to ask

  • Will you refer me for any tests?
  • What tests will I have?
  • How long will I have to wait to have these tests?
  • Who will contact me to arrange these tests?
  • Where will I go for the tests?
  • Will I see a specialist?
  • Who will arrange a follow up appointment after these tests?
  • Do I need to be referred urgently in case I have pancreatic cancer?

Tips to help you talk to your GP

Tests for pancreatic cancer

What do my test results mean? 

Information Standard

Updated August 2018

Review date August 2020