Healthcare professional news

Facing the challenges of Pancreatic Cancer

Our guest blogger, Trainee Pharmacy Technician, Eva Peng, from Kellaway Pharmacy in Bristol writes about why she is supporting Pancreatic Cancer Action and shares a touching story about the importance of early diagnosis and seeking help for symptoms.

The charity Pancreatic Cancer Action advises that approximately 10,000 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the U.K. each year. Sadly, pancreatic cancer has the lowest survival rate of all common cancers over 5 years.

In the U.K., less than 7% of sufferers will live beyond a five-year diagnosis. Ostensibly, poor disease awareness and late presentation for treatment have exacerbated the severity of the disease.

The NHS England Cancer Strategy encourages community pharmacies to improve the local awareness of the disease via awareness-raising initiatives. The NHS believes pharmacies have a responsibility to ensure more individuals address early symptoms of cancer for diagnosis for survival to be rapidly improved.

Less than 1 in 2 of the participants were able to identify the location of the pancreas.

During our Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, at Kellaway Pharmacy, Bristol, we ran a quiz to gauge local awareness of the disease. We found that less than 1 in 2 of the participants were able to identify the location of the pancreas in the body. In contrast, 98% of participants were able to identify the location of the lungs, and 95% understood the position of the heart.

We were able from our own experience to understand why PCA ran their bold campaign, ‘this isn’t what you think it is! #pancreasnotpenis’. Not to be provocative or sensational but to address what is an evident gap in people’s understanding of the pancreas and how it affects their health.

Moreover, only 1 in 3, of the participants, recognised the early symptoms of the disease. Furthermore, we also discovered that patients erroneously believed pancreatic cancer affects men more than women.

Barry’s story

Our patient, Barry told our pharmacy staff that his father-in-law that suffered from pancreatic cancer and failed to recognise the worrying symptoms during the early stages of the condition.

Unfortunately, Barry’s father-in-law incorrectly self-diagnosed the illness and ignored the early primary signs present in his body. He did not speak to any healthcare professional including the pharmacy team he had regular contact with.

Our campaign aimed at families within the community to improve early diagnosis and prevention.

We have distributed pancreatic cancer ‘Turn it Purple’ information packs and discussed possible symptoms with our patients. Also, we have conducted surveys and encouraged follow up referrals for patients with signs and queries about the disease.

In conjunction with Pancreatic Cancer Action, we hope more community pharmacies will join their campaign to save lives by promoting early diagnosis.

Talking about cancer can be emotive and challenging, but if we are to save lives especially from pancreatic cancer, we must do so and also talk about the pancreas.

PCA’s work that goes on every day of the year not only in November, so let’s keep going and support them.