Pancreatic cancer: Four common symptoms that can be mistaken for heatstroke

Hot weather can make you feel sluggish and tired, but this means that some of the most common symptoms of a serious illness – like sweating and confusion – can be easily missed or overlooked.

Due to the recent record heat, the American Cancer Society has warned that people could be missing these warning signs for pancreatic cancer – the 10th most common but 5th most deadly of UK cancers.

Spending too long in the sun, not drinking enough water, and getting heat stroke can all induce the same symptoms as a form of the disease called a pancreatic neuroendocrine tumour.

These are cancerous growths that develop in the neuroendocrine cells of the pancreas that produce important hormones like insulin and release them into the bloodstream.

When the tumour develops, these cells can develop insulinomas which pump out insulin, causing hypoglycemia, or low-blood sugar.

The symptoms of hypoglycemic shock are similar to heatstroke. They are:

Weakness
Confusion
Sweating
A rapid heartbeat.
The American Cancer Society says: “These tumours make insulin, which lowers blood glucose levels.

“Too much insulin leads to low blood sugar, which can cause symptoms like weakness, confusion, sweating, and rapid heartbeat.

“When blood sugar gets very low, it can lead to a person passing out or even going into a coma and having seizures.”

These neuroendocrine tumours can trigger the over-production of other hormones that can cause other related health problems.

When one of these hormones, called gastrin, pumps into overdrive, it can cause a gastrinoma. This causes the stomach to produce too much acid and develop ulcers.

These tumours can also cause glucagonomas, where an over-production of glucagon spikes the body’s blood-sugar levels and often develop diabetes.

Other pancreatic cancer signs to keep an eye out for are jaundice, weight loss and darker urine. If you are concerned about these symptoms you should speak to your GP.