Pancreatic cancer occurs when malignant cells develop in part of the pancreas. This may affect how the pancreas works. The pancreas is a gland that sits deep within the abdomen between the stomach and spine. It is about 15cm long and is shaped a little like a leaf. It has two main functions - to produce enzymes for digestion and hormones that control blood-sugar levels. The pancreas is described as having three parts, the head, body and tail.
Have I got any signs of pancreatic cancer?
Early-stage pancreatic cancer rarely causes symptoms.
- pain in the abdomen
- loss of appetite
- nausea and vomiting
- weight loss
- change in bowel habit with diarrhoea, constipation or the feeling of incomplete emptying
- jaundice (yellowish skin and eyes, and dark urine)
- severe back pain
- onset of diabetes
Am I at risk of pancreatic cancer?
- age - most cases occur in adults over the age of 60
- diabetes, particularly newly diagnosed diabetes
- a family history of pancreatic, ovarian or colon cancer. A high risk individual has at least 2 first degree relatives with pancreatic cancer
- chronic pancreatitis
- excessive alcohol consumption
How will I get tested?
Your GP may refer you for
- Blood tests
- CT scan
- MRI scan
- PET scan
- Tissue sampling tests
Imaging and tissue sampling tests are used to determine the stage of the cancer.
What happens next?
Your GP will refer you to a Specialist. Your specialist will discuss further investigations and treatment options.
- Endoscopic treatment
- Radiation therapy
- Symptom management