Seeing your GP

This page explains what will happen when you see the GP and being referred for tests.

What is in the 'How is pancreatic cancer diagnosed?' section?

Give your GP a good description of your symptoms, including any changes to your poo. It can help to keep a diary of your symptoms. Tell your GP about anything unusual, even if you are not sure it’s important. You might find our tips for talking to your GP helpful. Your GP may do blood and poo tests. If your GP asks you to come back for another appointment, make sure you do.

Some people see their GP several times before getting a diagnosis. If you have unexplained symptoms that don’t improve, go back to your GP and ask for further tests to find out what’s causing them.

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Quotemarks Created with Sketch.

"Sometimes you really need to push for tests to be done."

Will the GP refer me for tests?

Your GP may refer you to the hospital for tests to work out what is causing your symptoms. Doctors will need to rule out all other possible causes for your symptoms. You may need several different tests.

If you need to be seen quickly

If you have jaundice, your GP should refer you urgently for tests.

Your GP should refer you for an urgent CT or ultrasound scan if you are over 60 (over 55 in Scotland) and have unexplained weight loss and any of the following symptoms:

  • tummy or back pain
  • nausea or vomiting (feeling or being sick)
  • diarrhoea (runny poo)
  • constipation (when you find it harder to poo)
  • 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 A&E yourself, for example if 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.

If your symptoms are not specific to pancreatic cancer

Symptoms may not be specific to pancreatic cancer. They can be caused by lots of other things. Your GP may refer you to a service that checks people for different health conditions, including cancers. Your GP may call this a community diagnostic centre (CDC) or rapid diagnostic centre (RDC). In Scotland, it is called the rapid cancer diagnostic service (RCDS). The GP may also mention non-specific symptoms pathways.

CDCs aim to diagnose people with non-specific symptoms that could be cancer more quickly. These symptoms include unexplained weight loss, extreme tiredness (fatigue), tummy pain or feeling sick (nausea). These are symptoms that people with pancreatic cancer often have.

Most people seen at a CDC will not have cancer. If you do have cancer, your test results will be sent to a team of specialists at the hospital called a multidisciplinary team (MDT). The MDT will plan the next steps in your care.

How long will I have to wait for my tests?

In England, NHS guidelines say that people with suspected cancer should be diagnosed within 28 days. They also say that ideally, for people with suspected pancreatic cancer diagnosis should be within 21 days. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland don’t have a set time for referral for suspected pancreatic cancer. But they all have a target for people with pancreatic cancer to start treatment within 62 days of referral.

Wherever you live, you should be seen as quickly as possible. Ask your GP when you might have your tests. If you don’t get an appointment within this time, contact your GP again.

If you are referred to a CDC you may have all your tests done on the same day if possible. And you will receive your diagnosis quickly.

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 waiting for tests, speak to your GP. You may need to be seen sooner. The GP can also help you manage symptoms.

If you feel very unwell and you can’t see your GP, go to A&E.

Questions to ask your GP

  • Will you refer me for any tests?
  • Do I need to be referred urgently in case I have cancer?
  • Can I be referred to a community diagnostic centre (CDC)?
  • What tests will I have?
  • How long will I have to wait to have these tests?
  • Who will contact me to arrange these tests?
  • What should I do if I don’t hear back about the tests?
  • If there’s a long wait, can I get tests done privately?
  • What can I do to help with my symptoms?

Speak to our nurses

You can speak to our specialist nurses on our Support Line with any questions about going to your GP or being referred for tests.

Speak to our nurses
A specialist nurse taking a phone call.

Updated April 2024

Review date April 2026