This Morning: Dr Zoe explains symptoms of pancreatic cancer
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Deadly yet silent, pancreatic cancer is often reluctant to show symptoms. Patients might experience no red flag signs at all or the symptoms might be hard to spot. This description is far too familiar for Tom, who was struck by this condition aged only 42.
Back in 2017, Tom felt “fine” all the way through the festive period until New Year.
Just a few weeks later, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer “out of the blue”.
One of the first signs that alerted Tom to something being wrong was jaundice.
According to the NHS, jaundice describes your skin and the whites of your eyes turning yellow.
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Tom, who didn’t share his last name, told Pancreatic Cancer UK: “Jaundice is a horrible condition. You are constantly uncomfortable: hot, sweaty and itchy.
“Not to mention that you look a total fright because your skin and eyes are yellow.
“The jaundice was a symptom of a bigger issue and its presence meant that the tumour in my pancreas was diagnosed sooner than it might otherwise have been.”
Jaundice is triggered by pancreatic cancer tumour blocking your bile duct.
According to Pancreatic Cancer UK, this yellow sign can be one of the “earlier” symptoms, pointing to the daunting condition.
Apart from the warning signs that Tom described, jaundice can also turn your urine dark and your poo light. You might notice your wee resembles the colour of cola and your stools become clay-coloured.
While jaundice can ring alarm bells, the full list of pancreatic cancer symptoms includes:
- Loss of appetite or losing weight without trying to
- Feeling tired or having no energy
- High temperature, or feeling hot or shivery
- Feeling or being sick
- Diarrhoea or constipation, or other changes in your poo
- Pain at the top part of your tummy and your back (may feel worse when you’re eating or lying down and better when you lean forward)
- Symptoms of indigestion (feeling bloated).
The NHS recommends seeing a GP if you experience symptoms like these.
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After spotting jaundice, Tom had gone to see his GP straight away and was sent to a hospital.
He said: “After two days of blood tests and scans, I was called into a room and the doctors told me the news.
“I had pancreatic cancer, and they had already arranged a bed for me. I was going nowhere. It was a shock.”
The 42-year-old at the time had to undergo surgery and six rounds of chemotherapy.
Tom shared he had to put his life on hold and cancel his plans. “Pints, walks, galleries, football matches and gigs would have to wait,” he said.
However, he’s grateful to the immense support he received from his family and friends.
He added: “One of the most important aspects of my recovery has been the fantastic support I have received from my family and friends.
“I have found that some of my friendships have grown and become stronger, as well as new friendships forming.
“Positivity is the only way forward. Life is full of hard knocks, and it is how you respond that matters.”
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