It is notoriously late to be diagnosed, so do not ignore the potential symptoms of pancreatic cancer, a group at York Hospital has called for.
When Sheila Cooper, 72, from Huntington, began to suffer from a lasting pain under her ribs, she instinctively knew that it was more than gallstones. "I knew there was something wrong," she said, "I said to my father-in-law, that's definitely something happening inside."
Her hospital reference became immediate when she began to suffer from other symptoms: an upset stomach, jaundice and terrible itching.
"You know when they hold hands is not good news," Sheila (the picture below), reminiscent of ultimately being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer that had spread through its body.
Sheila's cancer is a terminal but she is determined to live positively and is hosted an out-of-date fundraiser at Huntington Working Mens Club to raise money for breast cancer UK.
And she supports a campaign led by the York Hospital team to raise awareness of the disease, the 11th most common cancer in Britain, but has one of the worst survival rates: less than one percent of people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer survive ten years or more.
There are 27 pancreatic patients currently in chemotherapy at York Hospital.
Among them are Geoffrey Underwood (the picture below), 73, from Thorpe Willoughby. He has a similar story that Sheila has suffered from a persistent pain in his ribs that radiated in his back. At the point, the pain became so difficult that he struggled to sit or lie down.
However, his diagnosis was slow when his symptoms failed for other conditions, including pancreatitis. When he was diagnosed, Geoffrey also learned that he could receive chemotherapy to prolong his life, but cancer had spread and was unbearable.
"I had no idea. I had no idea how to think about cancer in the pancreas," he says.
Both agree on the importance of early diagnosis.
"If there is something unusual for you, go to the doctor," Sheila said. "Continue with it. Go to your doctor. Ask for a scan."
York Hospital has a new support group for people with pancreatic cancer in York and surrounding areas.
It is the first support group in the hospital for patients and relatives who suffered from pancreatic cancer.
The next meeting will be on November 23 at York Hospital between kl. 13.00 – 15.00. For further information call 01904-726482.
Symptoms of pancreatic cancer
The most important symptoms of pancreatic cancer are:
– A thick upper abdominal pain that radiates in the back, which may be worse at night.
– Unexpected weight loss and suppressed appetite
– loose stools
– Inexplicable jaundice
Speaking during the Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, York Hospital oncologist Dr Kim Last describes the symptoms above and said that while prospects are often bad, "treatment is treated better and the risk of cure is much better when the earlier cancer is diagnosed."
The pancreas is a large gland that is part of the digestive system.
Statistically, approximately half of all new cases are diagnosed in people aged 75 years or older. It is uncommon in people under 40 years.
The three main treatments for pancreatic cancer are surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy. Different combinations of chemotherapy and more precise radiation therapy give hope to the future, he said.