‘Early diagnosis crucial’ – man with pancreatic cancer on first sign

Olivia Williams discusses ‘bizarre’ symptom of pancreatic cancer

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Cancer can reveal itself in subtle and unexpected ways, as a case study led by Pancreatic Cancer UK shows. Knowing the warning signs is the first step in identifying the deadly condition. A man, who didn’t feel unwell, shared the “first” symptoms that led to a pancreatic cancer diagnosis at the age of 50.

The location of pancreatic cancer tumour means that symptoms can often crop up in your tummy.

This was also the case for Andy, who didn’t share his last name, as the first symptoms appeared in this area.

Andy told Pancreatic Cancer UK: “I was diagnosed on May 31, 2013, by pure fate, I believe.

“Now that I look back, I had the first signs in late February with severe abdominal pains, but a visit to the doctors suggested I might have gallstones. 

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“I was sent for an ultrasound, but they couldn’t find anything so the doctor suggested I cut out fatty foods and it seemed to work, I was pain free again.”

But what seemed like a small victory for Andy didn’t last for too long.

In May, he went offshore to work on a rig, where he spotted something was off when he was using the loo.

He said: “I started to notice my urine was very dark and my stools were pale and refused to flush. 

“I didn’t think much of it as I didn’t feel unwell at all, but I decided to go and see the medic just to be sure.

“The medic asked to see me again a couple of days later and was concerned as I had started to look yellow.”

Symptoms like these detail a tell-tale sign of pancreatic cancer, known as jaundice.

Jaundice describes the whites of your eyes or your skin turning yellow. This condition can also trigger itchy skin and colour your pee dark while your poo turns pale.

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While jaundice and abdominal pains 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.

A couple of tests and doctor visits later, Andy was given a CT scan that revealed a tumour in the head of his pancreas.

He was booked for surgery and also received six months of chemotherapy to target the tumour.

Andy said: “Before this, I knew nothing about pancreatic cancer, and I just wanted to show others that there are survivors out there, but early diagnosis is crucial!”

Fortunately, the treatment worked well for Andy, who’s now doing well.

He even surpassed the five-year survival statistics. Andy added: “I am happy to confirm that I continue to keep very good health.”

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