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Pancreatic cancer is the 10th most common form of cancer in the UK, but the fifth most deadly causing around 9,600 deaths every year.

Known as a “silent” killer it often does not present with any symptoms in its initial stages, making it almost impossible to detect.

For this reason an expert spoke exclusively with about warning signs of pancreatic cancer to look for.

Doctor Asish Bassi, consultant gastroenterologist at Pall Mall Medical, explained: “Pancreatic cancer is often referred to as a ‘silent’ disease because it tends to be asymptomatic in its early stages, and when symptoms do appear, they are often vague and can overlap with many other less serious conditions.

“Pancreatic cancer symptoms typically begin to occur when the cancer has reached a more advanced stage.

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“This is one of the challenging aspects of pancreatic cancer, as it tends to be asymptomatic in its early stages when it is most treatable.

“The specific stage at which symptoms appear can vary from person to person, but in many cases, symptoms become noticeable when the cancer has already progressed.”

He warned that one sign of pancreatic cancer that you would notice in your face is jaundice.

This can cause your skin and the whites of your eyes to turn a shade of yellow. It might be less noticeable in people with black or brown skin.

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“One of the first signs or red flags that may be associated with pancreatic cancer is often painless jaundice,” Dr Bassi said.

“Jaundice is a condition where the skin and whites of the eyes turn yellow due to a buildup of bilirubin in the body.

“In pancreatic cancer, a tumour in the head of the pancreas can block the bile duct, which can lead to this symptom.”

However, there are other symptoms to look for, according to Dr Bassi.

He said: “Other signs and symptoms that may develop as pancreatic cancer progresses include abdominal pain, unexplained weight loss, loss of appetite, back pain, digestive problems, and new-onset diabetes.”

Dr Bassi advised that it is easy to mistake signs of pancreatic cancer for something else.

“Many of the early symptoms of pancreatic cancer can overlap with those of other gastrointestinal or digestive disorders, and they may not immediately raise suspicion of cancer,” he said.

“Some of the symptoms that can be confused with less serious conditions include abdominal pain, jaundice, unexplained weight loss, loss of appetite, back pain and digestive problems.”

But if you experience any symptoms you should speak to your GP for advice.
Dr Bassi added: “It’s important to note that symptoms can be caused by many other non-cancerous conditions as well, so experiencing any of them does not necessarily mean you have pancreatic cancer.

“However, if you or someone you know is experiencing persistent or concerning symptoms, it’s essential to consult a healthcare professional for a proper evaluation and diagnosis.

“Early detection and treatment of pancreatic cancer can significantly improve outcomes.”

Cancer Research UK lists symptoms of pancreatic cancer as:

  • Tummy (abdominal) or back pain
  • Yellowing of the skin or whites of your eyes (jaundice)
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Changes to your poo (stools).

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