Visiting your GP
The signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer include indigestion, pain in your tummy or back, changes to your poo, losing weight without meaning to, and jaundice.
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.
“From when you suspect a problem, just note down any symptoms, however vague or insignificant you feel they may be.”
Will the GP refer me for tests?
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 (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 (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, if your GP has referred you because of suspected pancreatic cancer for either an appointment with a specialist, a test, or a scan, you should have this within two weeks from the referral date. If you haven’t heard anything within two weeks, speak to your GP.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland don’t have a set time for referral for suspected pancreatic cancer. But wherever you live, you should be seen 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.
Rapid diagnostic centres
Rapid diagnostic centres (RDCs) are a new service that are available in some parts of England. In Scotland they are called early cancer diagnostic centres. They should become available in Wales and Northern Ireland in the next few years. These centres aim to diagnose people with vague symptoms that could be cancer more quickly. This includes people with pancreatic cancer symptoms.
If there is an RDC near you, and your GP thinks your symptoms could be cancer, they can refer you to the RDC for tests. You will have all your tests done on the same day where possible. And you will receive your diagnosis quickly.
Most people seen at an RDC will not have cancer. If you do have cancer, you will then be referred for treatment.
Questions to ask your GP
- Will you refer me for any tests?
- Do I need to be referred urgently in case I have cancer?
- What tests will I have?
- How long will I have to wait to have these tests?
- Who will contact me to arrange these tests?
- If there’s a long wait, can I get tests done privately?
- Can I be referred to a rapid diagnostic centre?
- What can I do to help my symptoms?
Updated December 2020
Review date December 2023