“Be clear on cancer” call in Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month

“Be clear on cancer” call in Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month image

Home » “Be clear on cancer” call in Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month

November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month – and people in Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes have been alerted to the symptoms to look out for.

The pancreas is an organ in the human body which sits near the stomach, spleen and small intestine.  It produces hormones (insulin and glucagon) which control the body’s sugar levels, and enzymes which help us to digest our food.

Unlike some cancers, pancreatic cancer affects men and women in the same way.  Someone with pancreatic cancer may not have all the symptoms listed below, as they can vary from person to person.

Common symptoms of pancreatic cancer include:

  • Indigestion;
  • Pain in your back or abdomen (tummy), or sometimes both;
  • Changes in your poo, such as diarrhoea or constipation;
  • Losing weight without meaning to;
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes).

Other symptoms may include:

  • Losing your appetite;
  • Recently diagnosed diabetes;
  • Problems digesting your food;
  • Feeling or being sick;
  • Blood clots;
  • Feeling very tired.

There are also some less common symptoms of pancreatic cancer.  These include a fever, shivering, and generally feeling unwell or not quite right.  Some people also feel like they can’t swallow their food properly, because the cancer can make you feel full quickly when you eat.  Depression and anxiety without any obvious cause may also be a symptom.

Dr Sarah Whiteman, chief medical director at Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes Integrated Care Board, said:

“Pancreatic cancer often doesn’t cause symptoms in the early stages.  As the cancer grows, it may start to cause symptoms.  Any symptoms may be vague, and may come and go to begin with.

“It is quite a rare condition, but it is often diagnosed very late because many of the symptoms can also be signs of other illnesses.  That’s why it’s important to know what’s normal for your body, and to seek advice if anything seems out of the ordinary for you.

“If you have jaundice, you ought to see to your GP straight away.  If you have any of the other symptoms and you don’t know why you have them, go to your GP or contact NHS 111, who will give you advice and arrange for you to talk to a doctor if you need to.

“Risk factors for pancreatic cancer include being older, smoking, being overweight, pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), and diabetes.”

If you would like to know more about pancreatic cancer, there is an informative video from Pancreatic Cancer UK which can help.  The nhs.uk website also carries lots of advice on symptoms, tests and living with pancreatic cancer, including help and support.

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