This Morning: Dr Zoe explains symptoms of pancreatic cancer
The pancreas is a gland found between the stomach and the spine.
Its two main jobs are to produce enzymes that digest food and hormones that control blood sugar levels.
Pancreatic cancer occurs when abnormal cells in the pancreas divide uncontrollably, potentially affecting nearby tissue.
Although the disease is the 10th most common type of cancer in the UK it is the fifth most deadly, accounting for almost 10,000 deaths every year.
It also has low survival rates with just five percent of patients surviving the disease for 10 years or longer.
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This has earned it a reputation as a “silent killer”, with health bodies warning that the disease can be diagnosed too late.
A Cancer Research UK spokesperson told the Mirror: “One reason for the poor outlook for pancreatic cancer is that it is often diagnosed late. The cancer is very often quite advanced.
“Only around 10 in 100 people (around 10 percent) can have surgery to remove pancreatic cancer, which gives the best chance of cure.”
The NHS warns that a late diagnosis can be due to the fact symptoms can be missed.
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“Pancreatic cancer may not have any symptoms, or they might be hard to spot,” it says.
According to the NHS, there are seven main symptoms to look out for, which include:
- Jaundice (whites of eyes or skin turning yellow)
- Dark urine
- Pale poo
- Loss of appetite
- Unintentional weight loss
- A high temperature or feeling hot or shivery.
However, in some cases it can also cause pain at the top part of your tummy and back.
This may feel worse when eating or lying down, and feel better when you lean forward.
The disease can also cause issues that affect digestion such as:
- Feeling or being sick
- Diarrhoea or constipation, or other changes in your poo
- Symptoms of indigestion, such as feeling bloated.
These symptoms could be caused by something else – such as irritable bowel syndrome – but you should still speak to your GP to be sure.
“Some of these symptoms are very common and can be caused by other conditions,” the NHS says.
“Having the symptoms does not definitely mean you have pancreatic cancer, but it’s important to get checked by a GP.
“If your symptoms are caused by cancer, finding it early may mean it’s easier to treat.”
You should seek an urgent appointment or call 111 if:
- The whites of your eyes or your skin turn yellow
- You’re being sick for more than two days
- You have diarrhoea for more than seven days
- You have symptoms that you’re worried about, but are not sure where to get help.
If your GP suspects you could have cancer they might take a urine or blood sample for testing.
This can then lead to a specialist referral for more tests.
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