I remember when I was oblivious to pancreatic cancer. I remember this time with fondness as it was a time before it forced itself into my life and stole my happy, healthy and incredibly loving dad away from me.
My dad was diagnosed in December 2013. He didn’t get to see 2014. Within just under a month he passed away in a hospice, surrounded by loved ones who couldn’t understand what had happened.
In the days that followed his passing, I researched pancreatic cancer in a vein search for answers.
I was desperate to make sense of a situation that seemed so unreasonable. I’m not sure what I was hoping to discover, but what I did find out incensed me.
I discovered how abysmal pancreatic cancer survival rates were in the UK and, perhaps even more frustratingly, the fact that these survival rates had barely changed in 50 years.
Despite the marvellous medical and technological advancements we have enjoyed in the that time, my dad had the same chance at survival in 2013 as he would have had were he diagnosed in 1963.
November marks Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month. Throughout the month, charities and their supporters will aim to raise awareness of pancreatic cancer, which is recognised as the deadliest of all common cancer types. Despite this shocking fact, many people, maybe even you, have never heard of it.
After my dad died, I vowed I would do all I could to play my part in changing these dire statistics. It is important we all have the difficult discussion with our loved ones about pancreatic cancer and its symptoms. Recognising what these are really can be the difference between life and death.
My dad suffered with mild back pain and slight weight loss for almost a year. Not thinking either serious enough to worry a doctor about, his pancreatic cancer was left undiagnosed. If we had known the symptoms then, he may well still be with us today.
Cancer Research UK lists pancreatic cancer as the 5th biggest cancer killer in the UK. This ranking is set to rise over the coming years, a trend already evident in the US where pancreatic cancer is the third most common cause of cancer death.
The reason pancreatic cancer is so deadly in comparison to other cancers, aside from a lack of research funding, is largely due to a lack of obvious symptoms, lack of awareness and limited treatment options. Currently one in four pancreatic cancer patients will not live a month beyond diagnosis. This has prompted Pancreatic Cancer UK to launch a new campaign this PCAM with a simple message: pancreatic cancer won’t wait.
Currently just 10% of pancreatic cancer patients are eligible for potentially curative surgery. According to Pancreatic Cancer UK, were this figure to increase even by a small amount it would, at the least, give hundreds more people with the disease more precious time with their loved ones and could save lives.
The simplest way to support Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month is to make yourself familiar with the symptoms. The most common include: tummy (abdominal) pain, back pain, often in the lower part of the back, unexplained weight loss, indigestion.
Other symptoms that are less common but may also indicate pancreatic cancer include: loss of appetite, change in bowel habits including floaty, smelly stools, jaundice (itchy, yellow, skin and eyes), problems digesting food, nausea, vomiting, difficulty swallowing.
If you would like to find out more about pancreatic cancer, Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month and the Demand Faster Treatment Campaign, visit the Pancreatic Cancer UK website and Demand Faster Treatment website.