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Should I see a pancreatic cancer specialist?

Men and women discussing pancreatic cancer

This page tells you about the guidelines that GPs have to help them decide whether you need to see a specialist urgently or not. You can find the following information

 

A quick guide to what's on this page

Should I see a pancreatic cancer specialist

It can be very difficult for GPs to decide who may have a suspected cancer and who has something much more minor. But there are particular symptoms that mean your GP should refer you to a specialist straight away. These are

  • Jaundice
  • Pain in your upper abdomen (above your tummy button) for no apparent reason, combined with weight loss and maybe back pain
  • A lump in your upper abdomen that your GP can feel

For an urgent referral, you should ideally get an appointment within 2 weeks. If you have jaundice, your doctor may arrange for you to have an ultrasound scan urgently.

Do bear in mind that these are not the only symptoms of pancreatic cancer. Symptoms such as feeling sick and loss of appetite are also common symptoms of other medical conditions. So it would not be sensible for your GP to refer you urgently without particular symptoms or combinations of symptoms.

If you are concerned that your GP is not taking your symptoms as seriously as you think they should, you could print this page and take it along to an appointment.
 

CR PDF Icon You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the about pancreatic cancer section.

 

 

About these guidelines

It can be very difficult for GPs to decide who may have a suspected cancer and who may have something much more minor that will go away on its own.

With many symptoms, it is perfectly right that your GP should ask you to wait to see if they get better or respond to treatment such as antibiotics. If GPs referred everyone who came to see them to a specialist immediately, the system would get jammed and those needing urgent appointments wouldn't be able to get them.

There are particular symptoms that mean your GP should refer you to a specialist straight away. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and the Scottish Government have produced guidelines for GPs to help them decide which patients need to be seen urgently by a specialist (gastroenterologist).

 

Urgent referral to a specialist

According to Department of Health guidelines, you should ideally get an appointment within 2 weeks for an urgent referral. The symptoms that need urgent referral for possible cancer of the pancreas are

  • Jaundice
  • Pain in your upper abdomen (above your tummy button) for no apparent reason, combined with weight loss and maybe back pain
  • A lump in your upper abdomen that your GP can feel

If you have jaundice, your doctor may arrange for you to have an ultrasound scan urgently.

Do bear in mind that these are not the only symptoms of pancreatic cancer. Symptoms such as feeling sick and loss of appetite are also common symptoms of other medical conditions. So it would not be sensible for your GP to refer you urgently without particular symptoms or combinations of symptoms.

 

What to do if you are still worried

If you are concerned that your GP is not taking your symptoms as seriously as you think they should, you could print this page and take it along to an appointment. Ask your GP to talk it through with you and then you may be able to decide together whether you need to see a specialist and if so, how soon.

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Updated: 22 May 2014