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Are there any symptoms that need urgent medical attention?

Some symptoms need urgent medical help. If you think the person you’re caring for has any of these symptoms or needs urgent help, then call any emergency contact numbers you’ve been given by the medical team, the GP, take them to accident and emergency (A&E), or call 999 and ask for an ambulance. Don’t worry that you’re being a nuisance.

Symptoms include:

Blood clot in a vein

If a blood clot forms inside a vein, it can block the vein and reduce or prevent blood flow. It can happen in veins that are deeper in the body – this is known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT). A part or all of the blood clot may come free and travel to the lungs. This is called a pulmonary embolism. It isn’t common but it can be very serious.

Read more about a blood clot in a vein.

Neutropenic sepsis

Neutrophils are white blood cells that fight infection. Neutropenic sepsis is an infection that can happen when the neutrophil level drops significantly. This can happen during chemotherapy. It is a medical emergency and needs urgent treatment.

Read more about infections while having chemotherapy.

Stent infection

Hollow tubes called stents are sometimes inserted to relieve symptoms caused by the cancer blocking the bile duct or duodenum.

There is a risk that the stent may get infected. This may be caused by the stent getting blocked, or by the bile flowing more slowly through a stent in the bile duct.

Signs of an infection can include:

  • feeling unwell
  • being sick (vomiting)
  • loss of appetite
  • pain
  • fever, shivering or feeling cold
  • yellow eyes (a sign of jaundice).

If you do have an infection, you may need to be admitted to hospital and treated with intravenous antibiotics (into a vein). The stent might also be replaced.

Persistent vomiting

Being sick a lot with no improvement (persistent vomiting) is a clear sign that something is wrong, though it can have a variety of causes. If someone has been vomiting for half a day or longer and can’t keep down any food or fluid, there’s a risk of dehydration.

You will probably need to be admitted to hospital for intravenous fluids (into a vein) and to find out the cause of the vomiting.

Gastric outlet obstruction

The cancer can block the opening of the stomach into the duodenum. This is called gastric outlet obstruction. If this happens, food can build up in the stomach as it can’t pass into the duodenum. This can cause persistent vomiting.

The vomiting can cause dehydration. If you havebeen vomiting for half a day or longer this needs medical attention.

You may need to be admitted to hospital for fluids into a vein (intravenously). You may also need to have a hollow tube called a stent inserted to open up the duodenum.

Published June 2017

To be reviewed June 2019

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