This Morning: Dr Zoe explains symptoms of pancreatic cancer
The pancreas is an organ in the middle of the abdomen that has two main functions – it produces insulin and glucagon which regulate an individual’s blood sugar.
It also produces enzymes (lipase, amylase and protease) which help digestion.
Pancreatic cancer tends to affect older people (75 plus) but can occur at any age.
Unlike other cancers, symptoms may not always occur or may be hard to spot.
Dr Suhail Hussain, a private GP covering Hertfordshire and Greater London, detailed the first red flag signs to look out for:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Pain in the mid abdomen, radiating to the back
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and mucous membranes) may also cause the urine to become darker and stools to become paler.
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Dr Hussain added: “Subsequent symptoms may include decreased appetite (in particular an aversion to meat, due to the decrease in pancreatic enzymes which break this down), nausea and vomiting and new onset diabetes (connected to the impact on insulin production by the pancreas).”
Dr Hussain advised most pancreatic cancers are diagnosed in the latter stages of the disease as symptoms manifest late.
In some cases symptoms could be mistaken for less serious conditions.
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Dr Hussain said: “Other conditions which it could be mistaken for include acute pancreatitis (normally infection of the pancreas), chronic pancreatitis, gallstones or other conditions of the gallbladder, gastric reflux or peptic ulcer.”
So when should you see a GP? Dr Hussain said: “Any of the above symptoms should warrant urgent appointment with your GP – weight loss, jaundice, severe (unexplained) abdominal pain.”
The NHS says ask for an urgent GP appointment or get help from NHS 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
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