Pancreatic cancer can be difficult to diagnose in its early stages as the symptoms are similar to other much less serious stomach issues. The key to early detection is to look for a combination of symptoms and risk factors for the disease.

Doctors will use a combination of methods to determine if a patient has pancreatic cancer. These include:

What are the symptoms?

Often, patients won’t experience any symptoms until they are in the latter stages of pancreatic cancer. When patients do have symptoms, they can include:

  • pain in the upper abdomen or back
  • jaundice
  • weight loss
  • appetite loss
  • nausea with or without vomiting
  • diarrhoea
  • constipation
  • recent type 2 diabetes diagnosis
  • existing diabetes that’s getting harder to manage
  • blood clots
Download our guide

Pancreatic Cancer Patient Guide

Easy to read information about diagnosis, treatment, diet and pain management in one place
Download our guide

Patient Nutrition Guide

Helpful ways to manage nutrition during pancreatic cancer and treatment

What are the risk factors?

A risk factor is something that can increase a person’s chances of developing pancreatic cancer. When trying to determine if a patient may be at risk, a GP should look into the following risk factors1:

What tests can diagnose pancreatic cancer?

Watch: How is pancreatic cancer diagnosed? | Patient education video

A patient’s symptoms and risk factors help determine whether or not a doctor should investigate for pancreatic cancer. If pancreatic cancer is suspected, patients will need to undergo tests to confirm a diagnosis.

The range of testing options available include:
  • imaging – includes CT, PET and MRI scans
  • endoscopy
  • laparoscopy

For a detailed explanation of these tests, download our Pancreatic Cancer Patient Guide.

Pancreatic cancer diagnosis at Epworth

How to see a specialist for investigations at the Jreissati Family Pancreatic Centre at Epworth in East Melbourne, Box Hill, Richmond or Geelong.

1. Speak to your GP about what you’re experiencing. Prepare by noting your symptoms and risk factors, listed above.

2. Contact our Pancreatic Nurse Coordinator with any questions you may have about next steps. You can call directly on 0428 658 039 or email [email protected]. Our nurse can also speak with your GP to introduce Epworth specialists and discuss your situation. 

The GP decision support tool is also available to help GPs with diagnostic pathways.

3. Your GP needs to submit their referral to our Pancreatic Nurse Coordinator on email [email protected] or fax 03 9429 4947. They can create a referral using our GP referral form (PDF, 148KB) or their practice software.

4. Once referred, you are triaged and will have an appointment with an Epworth specialist within 72 hours to investigate your symptoms. Rapid appointments are part of our commitment to achieve better outcomes for patients. 

A specialist gastroenterologist carries out initial testing. Based on the results, you may require further referral to a surgeon or oncologist.

1 Pancreatic Cancer - I-PACED (Implementing Pathways for Cancer Early Diagnosis), a resource card for general practitioners

Need help?

Talk to our pancreatic nurse coordinator 

Your pancreatic nurse coordinator will be your first point of contact during your treatment journey at Epworth. They will be able to provide answers to any questions that your or your family may have.
Get in touch