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Northern Ireland, here we come!

This Saturday, 1st June, Pancreatic Cancer Action are launching the first ever pancreatic cancer awareness campaign targeting the public, GPs and pharmacy teams at the same time, in the same place.

We hope that this pancreatic cancer awareness campaign will significantly help increase awareness of pancreatic cancer in Northern Ireland, where awareness is currently at it’s lowest in the whole of the UK. Just 2% of people in Northern Ireland know a lot about pancreatic cancer.

We are looking forward to replicating this campaign in other regions of the UK in the next few years.

Why is a joined up approach so important?

Pancreatic cancer is often diagnosed at a late stage, when the disease has already spread and curative surgery is no longer possible.

There is a lack of awareness across the UK population of cancer symptoms in general, but this increases for diseases like pancreatic cancer which has vague symptoms. Patients often think their symptoms are due to a less serious disease, or an existing condition. Or, they may ignore their symptoms altogether at first and not consider them as serious.

Therefore, the time between the start of symptoms and a patient seeing a doctor can be quite long in the case of pancreatic cancer.

Healthcare professionals need to be aware, alongside the public, and increase their confidence in referring for, and diagnosing, pancreatic cancer. Decreasing the number of primary care visits before diagnosis will reduce the time between first appointment and diagnosis; free up appointment slots; and save the NHS money.

Pancreatic cancer is currently diagnosed too late for surgery around 80% of the time. There is no simple fix for this, and patients and primary care professionals face multiple challenges in creating effective change.

Increasing early diagnosis of pancreatic cancer requires a multi-pronged approach. Increasing awareness and overcoming barriers to diagnosis in the public, will not be effective without corresponding increases in health care professionals.

Engaging with the whole population, and healthcare professionals, is an important step in creating equal access healthcare and an effective, efficient diagnostic pathway.

Why GPs and pharmacy teams?

Pharmacy teams are well placed to recognise pancreatic cancer symptoms in patients and encourage a reduction in both delay in going to the doctors and in diagnosis. Pharmacists can provide a point of contact for patients and encourage them to seek a GP appointment, as well as monitor the progress of a patient attending the pharmacy regularly for increasing prescriptions.

Studies have found that patients with cancers like pancreatic, often require multiple visits to their GP before being referred for diagnostic tests as a potential cancer patient. Pancreatic cancer can be initially misdiagnosed due to the symptom profile and lack of awareness, once again increasing diagnostic delay.

1-year survival significantly increases from 14% to 32% when a patient is diagnosed by their GP rather than in A&E.

Importance of public awareness

Pancreatic cancer awareness in the UK is extremely low with 95% of people having little to no knowledge of the symptoms of the disease.

This is a huge problem as the less people know about a disease and its symptoms, the less likely they are to go to the doctors. Early diagnosis is key to survival with pancreatic cancer as there is currently no screening programme for the disease.  

What’s more, the UK has the highest perceived symptom barrier (patients delaying seeing their GP because they are too busy or embarrassed for example) of many countries with comparible healthcare systems studied alongside it including Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Australia and Canada.

How are we taking action?

We are sending out health information packs to 142 GP surgeries and 538 pharmacies in Northern Ireland. If you’re based in Northern Ireland this June you can expect to see our awareness campaign: across the sides of buses; at bus stops; in the newspaper; on pharmacy bags; and in GP surgeries!

For more information about the campaign and why we are targeting Northern Ireland, as please click here.

Help us take action!

Whether you are in Northern Ireland or another part of the UK, you can help us raise awareness of pancreatic cancer. Click here for social media assets and ideas on how you can support the campaign!

As a small charity we have concentrated our efforts in small regions of the UK as funds have allowed. However, our ambition is to help us get this campaign to all corners of the UK! You can help us do this by donating a one-off or monthly donation.

I am a healthcare professional

We have a range of free healthcare resources specifically tailored for healthcare professionals, including information on our e-learning modules, patient information and awareness materials. Please click here to visit the Healthcare Professional section of our website.

Pancreatic Cancer Action: Lu Constable