Early diagnosis is essential to give people the best chance of surviving pancreatic cancer but the vagueness of symptoms stops many people from acting on the warning signs. Chelsea Bennet, 27, is acutely aware of the heartbreak caused by the disease. Her mum Joanne Eales tragically lost her life to pancreatic cancer after initially putting her symptoms down to the menopause.
Joanne first began experiencing symptoms of pancreatic cancer in February 2020.
She saw a GP but when things didn’t improve, and with the NHS under pressure due to the pandemic, she booked a private CT scan.
She was subsequently told she had stage four pancreatic cancer and that nothing could be done to save her life.
Joanne received palliative chemotherapy and was given between three and six months to live. She died at home in April this year.
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Chelsea said: “It began with a mild stomach and back ache and then she had a slight change in her bowel habits. She thought ‘maybe it’s because of my age’ because of the onset of the menopause.
“Mum thought it was just one of those things. She was still living a normal life and doing normal things.
“My mum was a very proud lady. Even a week before she passed away, she was still painting her nails. During that time, I lived between two houses, I would pick the children up from school and later go to my mum’s. I would spend all night at my mum’s. Being an only child, there was nobody else to share that burden with.”
“Very often, I looked at her and wondered how this had happened. Pancreatic cancer is something we all need to be aware of because it is such a deadly cancer.”
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Chelsea has bravely shared her mum’s story with Pancreatic Cancer UK as part pancreatic cancer month, which aims to raise awareness of the telltale signs of pancreatic cancer.
A new polling conducted for Pancreatic Cancer UK suggests there is a woeful lack of awareness about the symptoms among the UK population.
Nearly a third of people in the UK (28 percent) would wait three months or more to seek help from their GP if they had potential symptoms of the deadliest common cancer – at least three times longer than recommended.
The alarming findings, which coincide with the beginning of Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, also show that the pandemic is actively deterring people from contacting their doctor, with 31 percent saying they would delay seeking help for longer than usual.
Of those less likely to seek help, half (51 percent) did not want to be a burden to the NHS, while a quarter (25 percent) were worried about catching COVID-19.
The new poll was undertaken by Savanta ComRes, with 2,087 people across the UK taking part.
Pancreatic cancer’s vague symptoms mean it often goes undetected until after it has spread to other areas of the body.
According to Pancreatic Cancer UK, no screening or early detection tests exist to help doctors diagnose the disease.
Tragically, around 80 percent of people are diagnosed when the cancer is at an advanced stage and it is too late for lifesaving treatment.
Pancreatic Cancer UK recommends that anyone experiencing one or more of the most common symptoms – back pain, indigestion, tummy pain and weight-loss – for more than four weeks should contact their GP.
Anyone with jaundice (yellowing of the eyes or skin) should immediately go to A&E.
Jaundice is the “red flag” symptom for pancreatic cancer, but worryingly, nearly a quarter (22 percent) of those polled said they were not confident that they could recognise it.