Referral to a specialist

Your GP should arrange for you to see a specialist if you have symptoms that could be due to pancreatic cancer. 

Depending on your symptoms and other factors, this might be an urgent referral.

Seeing your GP

It can be hard for GPs to decide who may have cancer and who might have a more minor condition. For some symptoms, your doctor may ask you to wait to see if the symptoms get better or respond to treatment, such as antibiotics.

UK referral guidelines

There are guidelines for GPs to help them decide who needs a referral.

Some of the UK nations have targets around how quickly you’ll be seen. In England an urgent referral means that you should see a specialist within 2 weeks.

This 2 week time limit does not exist in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. But wherever you live, you are seen as quickly as possible.

Ask your GP when you are likely to get an appointment.

Urgent referral to a specialist

The referral guidelines vary slightly between the different UK nations. The below is a summary. Your GP will use these guidelines as well as their own experience and judgement.

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland

You should have an urgent referral for possible cancer of the pancreas if you are aged 40 or over and have jaundice. Jaundice means yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes.

Your GP should consider referring you for an urgent CT scan or ultrasound scan if you are aged 60 or over with weight loss and any of the following:

  • watery or loose poo (diarrhoea)
  • back pain
  • tummy (abdomen) pain
  • feeling and being sick (nausea and vomiting)
  • difficulty going for a poo or not going as often (constipation)
  • newly diagnosed diabetes Open a glossary item
These are not only symptoms of pancreatic cancer. They are also common symptoms of other medical conditions.

In Scotland

You should have an urgent referral for possible pancreatic cancer if you have jaundice.

Your GP should also refer you if you have unexplained weight loss, particularly if you are over 55, and you have one or more of the following: 

  • a lump (mass) in the upper area of your tummy
  • newly diagnosed diabetes
  • new and unexplained back pain
  • ongoing symptoms affecting the gastrointestinal tract (such as vomiting or feeling full after eating small amounts) and tests such as endoscopy Open a glossary item have not shown a cause
  • an abnormal area found on a scan
Remember to go back to your GP if your symptoms do not go away or are getting worse.

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