Do you know the signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer?

25 November 2021
Do you know the symptoms of pancreatic cancer?


Every year, there are around 10,500 new cases of pancreatic cancer in the UK and nearly eight out of 10 are diagnosed at a late stage.

Symptoms can be vague and hard to spot, come and go and may also be caused by more common problems.

November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, a campaign by Pancreatic Cancer UK to encourage people to recognise the signs and symptoms of this disease, so they can receive treatment sooner.

Knowing the risk factors can also help. Kent and Medway Cancer Alliance Clinical Lead Dr Henry Taylor said: “Pancreatic cancer is one of the hardest cancers to spot in the early stages.

“The more everyone can be aware of the risk factors, as well as the signs and symptoms signs, the better chance we have of catching pancreatic cancer early. If you have any concerns, please contact your GP.”



As well as being quite vague, the symptoms of pancreatic cancer may come and go to begin with and some people may not have all of them.

Symptoms can also be caused by more common things, but it’s really important if you experience any that you  contact  your GP. 

Symptoms can include: 

  • tummy or back pain
  • unexplained weight loss or loss of appetite
  • jaundice (yellow skin or eyes and itchy skin)
  • change in bowel habits
  • indigestion. 

Try Pancreatic Cancer UK’s symptoms quiz at

There are some key factors, which may increase the risk of developing pancreatic cancer:

  • Age: In the UK, nearly half (47 per cent) of people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer are aged over 75. It is uncommon in people under 40-years-old. 
  • Smoking: It’s estimated that smoking causes more than one in five pancreatic cancers (22 per cent) in the UK. The risk of pancreatic cancer increases the more you smoke and the longer you have smoked. 
  • Being overweight: Around one in eight pancreatic cancers (12 per cent) may be linked to being overweight or obese (a body mass index of 30-plus).
  • Family history of pancreatic cancer: Pancreatic cancer may run in a family. This isn’t common, equating to less than one in ten (10 per cent) of pancreatic cancers. 
  • Pancreatitis: People with chronic pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) have an increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer. About 70 per cent of chronic pancreatitis cases are due to drinking high amounts of alcohol over a long time. 
  • New onset diabetes: At the time of diagnosis, 65 per cent of pancreatic cancer patients have diabetes. In 15 per cent of those cases, the diabetes is longstanding; however, for more than half of these pancreatic cancer patients, the diabetes is new-onset. If you are over 60, have recently been diagnosed with diabetes and have lost weight without any clear cause, speak to your GP. They should refer you for a scan within two weeks to check for any problems. 

It’s important to remember that having any of the risk factors for pancreatic cancer doesn’t mean you will definitely get the disease.

(Risk factor statistics source: Pancreatic Cancer UK and Cancer Research UK) 

Find out more:

If you’d like to join Pancreatic Cancer UK’s campaign - find out more at

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