To mark Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, Emily shares her experience with this devastating disease, and explains why we must all ‘Demand better’ and ‘Take it on’.
Take it on
Out of context, the above are simple statements. Put them into the context of recent awareness campaigns for pancreatic cancer and they mean a huge amount more.
You only have to look at the statistics to solidify the need to achieve greater awareness, funding and research for pancreatic cancer. In England, 25.4% of people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer survive the disease for one year or more, with just 7.3% surviving for five years or more . Early diagnosis improves these rates, with those diagnosed at an early stage of the disease having a 5-year survival rate of 30% . With early diagnosis, there is an increased likelihood that a patient will be eligible for surgery, which is currently the only potentially curative treatment .
There are many reasons why pancreatic cancer is often diagnosed late and many steps that need to be taken in order to improve the rates of early diagnosis . There is currently no screening tool that can detect the cancer before symptoms present. And even once symptoms appear, the lack of a simple diagnostic test, combined with low healthcare professional confidence in identifying the disease, can hamper diagnosis. . However, one key issue is that public awareness of the disease and its symptoms remains low  despite the enormous efforts of charities such as Pancreatic Cancer Action and Pancreatic Cancer UK.
Let me pose you a question: At this very moment, without asking a friend or turning to Google, can you name any symptoms of pancreatic cancer?
If you answered no, you are in exactly the same position I was in approximately four years ago. Instead of simply listing the symptoms, I hope that what you are about to read will encourage you to carry out some of your own research and spread awareness of this disease within your community.
Almost four years ago, I received the news that my dad had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. At that time, I could not have told you even one symptom of pancreatic cancer. You might think the symptoms of such a devastating disease would be obvious, but unfortunately symptoms often go unnoticed until the cancer is at an advanced stage . Of the people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in England, only 10% are eligible for potentially curative surgery . My dad was diagnosed at a fairly early stage and was therefore eligible for surgery, but unfortunately it was not curative and further treatment was required in an attempt to slow the progression of the disease until his passing aged 54.
Devastatingly, this same narrative is unfolding right now for many other patients with pancreatic cancer, so although increasing public awareness of the disease is a vitally important step towards achieving the goal of early diagnosis, there is also an urgent need for better disease management options. Shockingly, although pancreatic cancer is the 5th biggest cause of cancer deaths in the UK, less than 3% of cancer research funding is dedicated to the disease . Charities including the Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund are committed to funding and campaigning for intensive, world-class research into the detection, diagnosis and treatment of pancreatic cancer, but require ongoing support to ensure that the disease receives the research focus that it deserves.
Let me share those two key statements again.
Take it on.
My hope is that this article has demonstrated why those statements – or calls to action – are so desperately important in the context of pancreatic cancer, and that it has encouraged you to find out more about the disease.
The day I learned of my dad’s diagnosis; the day I learned his surgery had not been curative and further treatment would be required; the day I learned he was too unwell to participate in clinical trials; the day he passed – these are all days that cemented my passion to take on the challenge of raising awareness of pancreatic cancer and demand better for those affected by it.
This November, Porterhouse Medical Group is working to increase public awareness of pancreatic cancer and its symptoms. Join us in demanding better and taking on the fight against pancreatic cancer. Any action, no matter how big or small, will help towards the cause, and we invite you to join in. Simply share this article to support the awareness campaign or perhaps coordinate a fundraising activity in your community, if you’re ready to ‘Take it on’!
To find out more about the symptoms of pancreatic cancer, please visit the pages listed below:
If any of these themes have been upsetting, or if you need someone to talk to, there are lots of organisations that can help, such as Samaritans (call 116 123 or email firstname.lastname@example.org) or Give Us A Shout (text ‘SHOUT’ to 85258) [3, 4].
Author: Emily Tracey, Senior Account Manager, Porterhouse Medical Group
- Cancer Research UK. Available at: https://www.cancerresearchuk.org. Accessed November 2020.
- Pancreatic Cancer Action. Available at: https://pancreaticcanceraction.org. Accessed November 2020.
- Contact a Samaritan. Available at: https://www.samaritans.org/how-we-can-help/contact-samaritan. Accessed November 2020.
- Give Us A Shout. Get help. Available at: https://giveusashout.org/get-help. Accessed November 2020.