Half of British population unable to name a single symptom of pancreatic cancer
- Nearly half of GB population unable to name a single symptom of pancreatic cancer according to new research from Pancreatic Cancer Action
- Pancreatic Cancer Action urges greater awareness of symptoms in November’s National Pancreatic Cancer Awareness month to improve survival rates of Britain’s fifth biggest cancer killer
According to Ipsos MORI research commissioned by national charity Pancreatic Cancer Action, two thirds (64%) of people in this country know very little about pancreatic cancer, including one in ten (11%) who have never even heard of it . Yet pancreatic cancer is Britain’s fifth deadliest cancer killing 22 people a day. Worryingly there is also a lot of confusion regarding the symptoms of this grim disease with nearly half of the GB population (49%) unable to name a single symptom. Only 16 per cent of those asked thought upper abdominal pain or back pain was a symptom and only 9 per cent mentioned jaundice, both of which are key symptoms of the cancer.
When shown a picture of a human body (like the picture left, but without the labels), more than seven out of ten (71%) people could not correctly locate where the pancreas lies. One in ten confuse it with the appendix. One third of people did not know what the function of the pancreas is (33%)
With over half of pancreatic cancer patients diagnosed in A&E and the majority seeing their GP at least three times before a referral, Pancreatic Cancer Action’s Chief Executive Ali Stunt (herself a rare survivor of pancreatic cancer) is urging both consumers and the medical profession to be more alert to the possible symptoms of this illness.
Currently 90 per cent of people with pancreatic cancer are diagnosed too late for potentially curative surgery, with most having a life expectancy of a mere four to six months on diagnosis. Shockingly the five year survival rate is only three per cent, is amongst the worst in Europe and this disease receives less than one per cent of the national cancer research budget.
Ali Stunt, Chief Executive of Pancreatic Cancer Action explains, “The biggest problem is early symptoms of the illness can often be very vague and are not being recognised soon enough by both patient and doctor, plus there is no one clear indicator of the cancer such as a lump. There are however a number of key classic symptoms as well as a few a-typical ones which taken in a cluster of symptoms should give rise for suspicion. If we can get more people diagnosed earlier then more have the chance of surgery, which is currently the only cure. Our research shows there is a clear need to increase public awareness of the symptoms of pancreatic cancer so more go to their doctors sooner.”
Classic pancreatic cancer symptoms are persistent or significant abdominal pain and/ or back pain, painless jaundice (yellow skin/eyes, dark urine), significant and unexplained weight loss. Other common symptoms are new onset diabetes not associated with weight gain, pain in the upper abdomen that typically radiates to the back, indigestion or abdominal discomfort, loss of appetite or nausea and vomiting, pain when eating and Steatorrhoea (fatty stools, often pale and smelly).
In addition to creating awareness amongst consumers, Pancreatic Cancer Action has joined forces with the Royal College of GPs to develop the world’s first e-learning tool to help GPs diagnose pancreatic cancer earlier. The GP e-learning programme uses a case study format with video footage to assess and improve their knowledge, very importantly looking at both a-typical presentations of the disease as well as the more classic symptoms of the illness.
November is National Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month with a number of activities planned across the country.
A number of well-known people have died from the disease including most recently Labour backbencher Sir Stuart Bell, Steve Jobs, head of Apple, Hollywood actor Patrick Swayze and Luciano Pavarotti.
Pancreatic cancer affects men and women equally and over 40 per cent of patients are under the age of 69. While the causes of pancreatic cancer are not fully understood, approximately 25 per cent of cases are attributable to cigarette smoking, 5-10 per cent are hereditary and it is thought that obesity and diabetes increase the risk of contracting the disease.
Pancreatic Cancer Action is a national charity committed to improving survival rates for Britain’s fifth deadliest cancer through earlier diagnosis by generating greater awareness of the disease amongst the general public and medical community, improved information and research funding.
The research was conducted using Ipsos MORI’s in home face to face omnibus, Capibus , between 19th to 29th October 2012. Questions were asked to sample of 1009 GB adults aged 15+. Results are weighted to ensure the sample was representative of this profile.
The survey was commissioned by Pancreatic Cancer Action. Full data tables are available upon request
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