Learn about pancreatic cancer

10,000 people in the UK are newly diagnosed with pancreatic cancer each year - yet few people can name the symptoms. Find out what they are, and what to do if you're concerned about pancreatic cancer.
Purple-themed graphic that reads 'Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month'

What is pancreatic cancer?

The pancreas is a large gland behind your stomach, at the back of the tummy (abdomen). It is surrounded by several important organs, such as the liver, and also by large blood vessels. It helps you make enzymes, which break down food and aid digestion, and it makes hormones which controls sugar levels in the blood.

Pancreatic cancer develops when cells in the pancreas grow out of control, forming a lump. 

Signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer

Symptoms of pancreatic cancer can vary for each individual, but some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Tummy or back pain 
  • Unexplained weight loss or loss of appetite
  • Indigestion
  • Change to bowel habits (e.g. diarrhea, constipation, steatorhhoea)
  • Jaundice (yellow skin/eyes, itchy skin)
  • Feeling or being sick
  • Feeling very tired
  • Problems digesting food

What to do if you're worried

If you have jaundice, go to your GP or A&E.

If you have any other symptoms, you don't know why you have them, and they last four weeks or more, go to your GP.

Give your GP a good description of your symptoms. Mention anything unusual, even if you're not sure it's relevant. If your GP asks you to come back at a later date, make sure you do. 

If your symptoms get worse or you develop any new symptoms, you should always see your GP. If your symptoms don’t improve, go back to your GP until you get a diagnosis, or you are sent for tests to find out what’s causing them.

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