Although no strong initial ‘alarm’ symptoms signalling pancreatic cancer were found, some clear implications for policy makers and clinicians emerged:
- awareness campaigns could consider messages that reflect the importance of multiple, often intermittent, symptoms including decreased appetite and indigestion and systemic symptoms such as fatigue and weight loss
- GPs could consider concurrent rather than sequential investigation with CT and gastroscopy for older people who present with indigestion that is atypical or associated with systemic symptoms
- GPs could also have an increased awareness of the risk of pancreatic cancer among people diagnosed with diabetes
- All health care professionals should remain alert to possible pancreatic cancer in people with back pain, and beware of misattributing potential symptoms of pancreatic cancer in those with self-reported anxiety and/or depression.
“We found that only people presenting with jaundice and decreased appetite as an initial symptom were investigated promptly. More targeted evaluation of people with suspicious symptoms could help to identify pancreatic cancer at an earlier stage, but it is clear that we also need other strategies for earlier diagnosis, including the development of diagnostic biomarkers and improved access to imaging.” Said Dr Fiona Walter, Principal Researcher, Primary Care Cancer Research