I woke up itching all over and feared doctors would think I was a nutcase – they sent me straight to A&E | The Sun

A WOMAN has revealed how she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer after waking up in the middle of the night itching all over.

Barbara Green, 79, from Falls Church, Virginia, led an active life, walking every day and doing yoga before the strange symptom started in July 2022.

She thought nothing of it at first but went to the doctors for a relief cream when the itching didn’t subside for a week.

Medics ordered blood tests when they found out her stools had become lighter coloured and urine was darker, and she was later diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer.

Barbara told Today: “I was just so itchy, like if you had a bug bite that really drives you crazy, but this is like a bug bite that’s spread to your entire body.

“I thought the doctor was going to think I was a nut case for coming in because I was itchy.

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“I had no idea there was anything wrong with me. I thought I was perfectly fine. Everybody else seems to realise that pancreatic cancer is deadly. I didn’t even know that.”

Around 8,800 Brits are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer every year, with 8,700 dying from the disease.

It is responsible for one in 20 cancer deaths in the UK and is predicted to overtake breast cancer to become the country’s fourth most deadly cancer by 2030.

While five-year survival rates for most cancers have been improving, pancreatic cancer’s rates have remained the same over the last 40 years, according to Pancreatic Cancer UK.

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Late diagnosis is a common issue, with four in five cases being spotted when the disease has become metastatic — meaning it has spread to other organs and is harder to treat.

Symptoms can include indigestion, tummy or back pain, changes to your poo, unexplained weight loss or loss of appetite and yellowing skin or eyes.

However, in rare cases it can cause progressive itchiness that often accompanies jaundice — yellowing of the skin or eyes — like in Barbara’s case.

She said she was grateful her doctor recognised the symptom.

He ordered blood tests that revealed her liver enzyme levels were dangerously high and she was later diagnosed with cancer.

The disease had spread to her omentum — the fatty tissue that surrounds the stomach and intestines.

She was not a candidate for surgery and doctors gave her less than a year to live, but she was given a course of chemotherapy.

It has now been 15 months since her diagnosis and her tumour has shrunk so much it is barely visible on scans.

Barbara said she doesn’t “know how long I might live” but says she doesn’t “seem to be dying on schedule”.

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Speaking to Let's Win Pancreatic Cancer, she said: "It’s been more than a year since my diagnosis and it feels good to report that my tumours have shrunk, although the scans still show cancer.

"I continue living my life as best I can, plugging along, and fitting in some patient advocacy for medical aid-in-dying, in my home state of Virginia, when I can."

What are the symptoms of pancreatic cancer?

Symptoms of pancreatic cancer can include:

  • the whites of your eyes or your skin turn yellow (jaundice), and you may also have itchy skin, darker pee and paler poo than usual
  • loss of appetite or losing weight without trying to
  • feeling tired or having no energy
  • a high temperature, or feeling hot or shivery

Other symptoms can affect your digestion, such as:

  • feeling or being sick
  • diarrhoea or constipation, or other changes in your poo
  • pain at the top part of your tummy and your back, which may feel worse when you're eating or lying down and better when you lean forward
  • symptoms of indigestion, such as feeling bloated

Source: The NHS

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