Pancreatic Cancer Aware - Rasising awareness of Pancreatic Cancer and its symptoms

Pancreatic Cancer Aware - #PancreaticCancerAware

Pancreatic Cancer Aware - Rasising awareness of Pancreatic Cancer and its symptoms

Raising awareness of Pancreatic Cancer. #PancreaticCancerAware

Who We Are

We’re Pancreatic Cancer Action, a UK charity dedicated to improving survival rates of this devastating disease. We believe that while no early detection test for pancreatic cancer exists, the key to saving lives is improving early diagnosis.

We focus on raising awareness of pancreatic cancer, educating the medical community, campaigning for change and funding research specifically into early diagnosis. Ultimately we want to improve detection and treatment so more people survive pancreatic cancer.

For more information, visit


The Pancreatic Cancer Aware Campaign - #PancreaticCancerAware

The Campaign

Decades of underfunding means that there are no curative treatments for pancreatic cancer on the horizon. While no early detection test exists, the key to improving survival rates is getting more patients diagnosed early by getting them to recognise the disease and its symptoms.

The campaign focuses on raising awareness of pancreatic cancer, its signs and its symptoms.

If you believe you have any of the symptoms featured on the campaign, which are not normal for you and are persistent, you should talk to your GP.


What is Pancreatic Cancer?

Pancreatic cancer is when a malignant tumour forms in the pancreas, which is the organ responsible for making enzymes to help to digest (break down) foods, and hormones, which control blood sugar levels.

Tumours become malignant when they are made up of cells that grow out of control. Cells in these tumours can invade nearby tissues and spread to other parts of the body such as the liver and lungs. When cancer spreads to other organs, it is known as metastatic or advanced cancer.

Be Pancreatic Cancer Aware. Diagram of how Pancreatic Cancer affects the body.

Exocrine tumours

These make up the vast majority of all pancreatic cancers (around 90%) and come from the cells that line the ducts in the pancreas which carry digestive juices into the intestine. These are called pancreatic ductal adenocarcinomas. Other exocrine tumours of the pancreas are rarer, and include adenosquamous carcinomas and undifferentiated carcinomas.

Endocrine tumours

These are known as neuroendocrine tumours, and are much less common. These tumours sometimes make hormones such as insulin, and glucagon, to control blood sugar. Often referred to as either PETs or islet cell tumours, they are very rare, making up just 2-5% of pancreatic tumours.

How is Pancreatic Cancer Diagnosed

Patients with symptoms that suggest they have pancreatic cancer need quick investigation, usually by a CT scan and early referral to a specialist unit for other investigations.

These investigations and tests will help your specialist team diagnose, treat and monitor your condition. These tests are referred to as “staging investigations”. The results of these tests will provide information about the abnormal area in your pancreas and your general health. Your specialist team will also want to get to know you and your family so they can make the most appropriate treatment choice for you.

Click here for more information on the stages of pancreatic cancer.

There are two aspects to “staging” investigations.  Some are designed to find out as much as possible about the tumour itself, and some are designed to assess your general fitness. There are many treatment options and your doctors will be trying to work out which is best for you, taking into account all of the information.  These decisions are usually taken at a multidisciplinary team (MDT) meeting.

Pancreatic Cancer Statistics

Pancreatic cancer is the UK’s fifth biggest cancer killer and has the lowest survival rate of the ten most common cancers.

Over 9000 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer each year. Sadly, it claims almost the same number of lives every year. This is because 80% of pancreatic cancer patients are diagnosed when the disease is advanced and hard to treat.

Through our work, we want to ensure that more people live longer by improving early diagnosis.

Every hour one person dies of Pancreatic Cancer. Be Pancreatic Cancer Aware.

One person dies of pancreatic cancer every hour

Every day 26 people are diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer. #PancreaticCancerAware

Twenty six people are newly diagnosed with the disease each day

Only 5% of patients with pancreatic cancer survive more than 5 years.

Currently only five percent of those diagnosed survive beyond five years

Men and women are affected by pancreatic cancer equally.

Pancreatic cancer affects men and women equally

Only 3% of cancer research funding goes towards Pancreatic Cancer.

Receives only 3% of cancer research funding

40% of patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer are under 69.

Of patients diagnosed are under the age of 69

How is Pancreatic Cancer Treated?

Treatment for pancreatic cancer is dependent on how advanced the cancer is and a patient’s overall health. If possible, surgeons will remove the cancer; the most common operation is the Whipples Procedure (surgery to remove all or part of the pancreas and other organs). Surgery is usually followed up with chemotherapy.

For metastatic pancreatic cancer (spread to other parts of the body) treatment may include chemotherapy and occasionally radiotherapy too. A patient may also be offered treatment to relieve symptoms and the opportunity to join a clinical trial.

Have you got any questions about pancreatic cancer and its treatment?
Visit or call 0303 040 1770.

Pancreatic Cancer Symptoms

Do you suffer from
any of these symptoms?

The following are classic symptoms of pancreatic cancer.

However, they can also have many other causes, so if you experience them it does not necessarily mean you have pancreatic cancer, BUT

If you persistently experience one or more of these symptoms, which are not normal for you, DO NOT IGNORE THEM!

Contact your GP straight away. Or call the NHS 111 service.

Pancreatic Cancer symptoms often result in misdiagnosis. Be Pancreatic Cancer Aware.

Pancreatic Cancer Aware. Weight loss can be a symptom of Pancreatic Cancer.

Upper abdominal pain may be an indication of Pancreatic Cancer, stay Pancreatic Cancer Aware.

Jaundice can be a symptom of Pancreatic Cancer. #PancreaticCancerAware

Onset diabetes can be a symptom of Pancreatic Cancer. Pancreatic Cancer Aware campaign.

Pale and smelly stools may be a symptom of Pancreatic Cancer. #PancreaticCancerAware

Indigestion can be an early sign of Pancreatic Cancer. Being Pancreatoc Cancer Aware.

Mid back pain may be a symptom of Pancreatic Cancer. #PancreaticCancerAware

Other symptoms may include pain on eating, nausea and vomiting, and loss of appetite.

What causes the classic symptoms of pancreatic cancer?

There is a reason why pancreatic cancer can cause some symptoms. If you click on any of the symptoms below, you can find an explanation.


  • Painless jaundice (yellowing of the skine/yes, dark urine and/or very itchy skin).

    jdeHalf of patients will have yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes (Jaundice) when they first go to the doctors.  This is related to the tumour blocking the bile duct which leads to a build-up of bile in the liver.

    Jaundice may be more obvious in the whites of the eyes and bad jaundice can cause itching of the skin.

  • Abdominal pain which is new-onset and significant

    uapApproximately 70 per cent of patients with pancreatic cancer go to the doctor initially due to abdominal pain. This pain is often described as beginning in the stomach area and radiating around to the upper back (just above where a woman’s bra strap would be).

  • Pale, smelly stools that don’t flush easily

    pssA tumour in the pancreas can cause bowel disturbances which means you do not absorb your food properly. This will result in regular, large bowel movements of pale and smelly stool. This can also cause weight loss.

  • Mid-back pain

    mbpThis pain is identified as just above where a woman’s bra strap would be and may be eased by leaning forward.

  • Weight Loss which is significant and unexplained

    swlCancer cachexia can cause the body to burn more calories than usual, break down muscle and decrease appetite. A person may notice a change in appetite or desire for certain foods. Unexplained weight loss may be an early symptom of pancreatic cancer and can occur without any pain or apparent change in digestion.


Risk Factors for Pancreatic Cancer

Not enough is yet understood about pancreatic cancer to identify the actual causes of the disease, but there are some factors that can increase a person’s risk of developing pancreatic cancer.

Reducing Your Risk of Pancreatic Cancer

While there is no clear reason why some people develop pancreatic cancer, we do know that the following can reduce your risk.

Stop smoking.

Smoking is the only confirmed environmental cause of pancreatic cancer and 29 per cent of cases are caused by smoking.

Are you a smoker? You should take steps to stop. You can:

  • Talk to your doctor who can provide you with advice and strategies to help you stop.
  • Find your local stop smoking service – they are available in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
  • Join Smokefree NHS support group. You can also contact a Smokefree NHS expert.

If you are a smoker talk to your doctor about strategies to help you stop, including support groups, medications and nicotine replacement therapy. If you don't smoke, don't start.


Maintain a healthy weight and eat a healthy diet.

A study in 2011 estimated that around 12 per cent of all pancreatic cancers in the UK are attributable to being overweight or obese2

Keeping a healthy weight not only cuts your risk of pancreatic cancer, but could also reduce your risk of nine other types of cancer too.

  • If you currently have a healthy weight, try to maintain it.
  • If you need to lose weight, aim for a slow, steady weight loss.
  • Talk to your GP who can provide you with advice. Your GP may also be able to enable you to have a reduced gym membership.
  • Combine daily exercise with a diet rich in vegetables, fruit and whole grains with smaller portions to help you lose weight. There are also lots of tools and apps to help you including:
Reducing weight can help reduce your risk of Pancreatic Cancer.Maintaining a healthy weight can help reduce your risk of Pancreatic Cancer.

What to do if you’re concerned?

All of the symptoms featured in the Pancreatic Cancer Aware campaign can have multiple other causes and the symptoms you are experiencing may well be a sign of something else.

BUT if you’ve regularly been experiencing one or more of the symptoms mentioned in this campaign that are persistent, worsening, and not normal for you, do not ignore them. Contact your GP or the NHS 111 service.

If a friend or member of your family is having any of these symptoms, tell them to do the same.

If you have already visited the doctor, and are not happy with your diagnosis, go back again. If you are concerned for your health, you are not wasting anyone's time by returning.

If pancreatic cancer is found early, it is more treatable so visiting your doctor could save your life!

How can I track my symptoms if I’m worried?

Before any appointment, it helps to have a record of your symptoms. The following can help you track them.


Symptoms Diary

Using a symptoms diary will help you track when you have been having symptoms, and how frequent and persistent they are.

You can take this information to your GP if you are worried that your symptoms may be pancreatic cancer and if you have already talked about your symptoms with your GP and they are not going away, you can fill in a copy of this diary and make another appointment to see them.

Expect to be asked more questions at your appointment relating to how long you have had your symptoms or whether they have changed over time.

Keeping a symptoms diary can help diagnose Pancreatic Cancer sooner.

How to use the diary:

  1. Monitor your symptoms daily and make a record of when you had the symptom(s) and how severe you think they are. You may want to note additional comments/concerns to raise with your doctor.
  2. Keep a record for at least 2 weeks BUT if symptoms become very severe see your doctor straight away.
  3. Make an appointment to see your GP and use your diary to describe your symptoms in as much detail as possible.
    • Tell your doctor you are worried about pancreatic cancer.
    • It is also important to tell your doctor if anyone in your family has any prior history of pancreatic cancer.


You can also visit thePancreatic Cancer Action website or call 0303 040 1770 to find out more.

Get In Touch

If you would like to get in touch, please fill our contact form or contact the Pancreatic Cancer Action office on 0303 040 1770.