Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month

Pancreatic Cancer Action

19th November 2019

Every November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month which is an opportunity for people to come together and unite against pancreatic cancer. This month, Pancreatic Cancer Action are on a mission to increase awareness of the pancreas, what it does and pancreatic cancer. According to a recent survey the charity conducted, 69% of people know nothing about the disease and 74% couldn’t name one symptom.

Pancreatic cancer is the 5th biggest cause of cancer death in the UK, however, it is set to become the 4th biggest by 2026 as other cancers’ survival rates continue to improve. The survival statistics for pancreatic cancer have not changed markedly in nearly 50 years, with less than 7% surviving 5 years.

Survival is so low because the majority of patients are diagnosed when their cancer is at a late stage when surgery (currently the only cure) is no longer an option. Early diagnosis is key to improving survival rates as the sooner the disease is diagnosed, the better the prognosis. For those diagnosed in time for surgery, their chances of survival increase to 30%.

Symptoms of pancreatic cancer include:

  • Unexplained significant weight loss
  • Abdominal pain or discomfort that tends to get worse when eating
  • Indigestion that’s not responding to prescribed medicine
  • Yellowing of the skin and/or eyes, dark urine or very itchy skin (jaundice)
  • Fatty and pale stools that are smelly and hard to flush
  • Mid-back pain or discomfort

Pancreatic Cancer Action (PCA), founded by a pancreatic cancer survivor, Ali Stunt, who proves that early diagnosis is achievable and survival is possible, is on a mission to improve survival rates of pancreatic cancer by ensuring more people are diagnosed early and survive pancreatic cancer.

Ali Stunt was just 41 years old when her symptoms started. She had mid-back pain which radiated to the front, pain on eating, a change in bowel habit and was losing weight without trying.

Ali was misdiagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome, indigestion and gallstones – which are all seemingly common misdiagnoses of the disease. After being told to wait 6-8 weeks for a scan Ali was fortunate enough to be seen privately and was quickly diagnosed with a 5cm cancerous mass on her pancreas which was luckily caught in time for surgery. Ali is now a 11-year survivor, something which around only 1% of patients achieve.

Pancreatic Cancer Action is the only UK charity that specifically focusses on early diagnosis of the disease. The charity provides free resources to healthcare professionals such as diagnostic guidelines with the latest NICE referral guidelines and have produced the only e-learning module on pancreatic cancer for GPs (CPD accredited) and pharmacy teams (NPA accredited). You can access these resources by visiting: www.panact.org/hcp-resources

PCA also focuses on raising public knowledge and awareness of the disease and its symptoms. Only 5% of the UK know the signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer and what’s more 70% don’t even know where their pancreas is. By running national advertising campaigns and holding awareness stands and talks we are getting our message out there!

In addition to raising awareness, we provide free patient information online and in print. From symptom diaries and booklets on understanding each stage of the disease, to a recipe book specifically for patients going through treatment – the recipes can also be used for other cancer patients. The charity also funds research into developing an early detection method to improve early diagnosis of pancreatic cancer and campaigns for change on a national and global level.

We rely on our amazing supporters to help us carry out our work, whether it is fundraising or raising vital awareness. To find out more about Pancreatic Cancer Action and help us take action against pancreatic cancer, please visit www.pancreaticcanceraction.org or call 0303 040 1770.