Charity news

Shocking new statistics on pancreatic cancer awareness

According to our recent survey*, the UK public has a worryingly low knowledge of the pancreas and pancreatic cancer, with 69% knowing nothing about the disease and 74% not being able to name a single symptom.

What’s more, concerningly, around 2 thirds of people surveyed could not name any of the factors that increase the chances of getting pancreatic cancer and are therefore unaware of their own risk.

74% of people cannot name a single symptom of pancreatic cancer

Pancreatic cancer and the pancreas

Pancreatic cancer is not just an “old mans cancer”. It affects almost 10,000 people a year and men and women are affected equally, with 40% of those diagnosed under the age of 69.

Pancreatic cancer is the UK’s 5th biggest cancer killer (soon to overtake breast cancer as the 4th) and you are 5 times more likely to die of the disease than in a car accident.

The pancreas is an essential organ responsible for producing enzymes that help break down your food and hormones which control your blood sugar levels. Pancreatic cancer occurs when a tumour forms in the pancreas and currently, there is no early detection (screening) test for the disease.

Surviving pancreatic cancer is possible!

Despite having a shockingly low survival rate, it is possible to survive.

If a patient is diagnosed early and able to have surgery, their 5-year survival increases from less than 7% to around 30%. Knowing the symptoms and risk factors associated with pancreatic cancer can help increase early diagnosis and save lives.

Ali Stunt, the founder and CEO of Pancreatic Cancer Action, was diagnosed when she was 41 and with two young children. Her illness was detected early enough for her to have surgery and this year she celebrated being a 12-year survivor.

“I am living proof that with early diagnosis, survival is possible.” – Ali Stunt

Pancreatic Cancer Action are sharing stories from people across the UK who have survived pancreatic cancer to show that it is possible and the importance of early diagnosis.

What we need to do

The results from the survey are worrying, it shows that people are not aware of the signs and symptoms and the potential risk to them.

Knowing what to look out for when something is wrong with your pancreas is vital for early diagnosis as there is currently no screening test for pancreatic cancer.

Despite the fact that the disease is set to overtake breast cancer as the 4th biggest cancer killer in the UK, pancreatic cancer only receives 3% of research funding. What’s more the target of 75% of cancer diagnosed in the early stages, set out in the NHS Long Term plan, is unrealistic for pancreatic cancer and presents a challenge that cannot be met.

We need a specific focus for cancers, like pancreatic cancer, which have vague symptoms as well as increased funding and awareness amongst the public and healthcare professionals.

What are the symptoms to look out for?

We are urging the public to be more aware of the signs and symptoms and to see their GP if they are experiencing one or more of the following:

  • Upper abdominal pain or discomfort
  • Mid-back pain
  • Persistent indigestion that doesn’t go away with medication
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Pale and smelly stools
  • Yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes, known as jaundice. If you notice this symptom, you should seek urgent medical assistance.

*Survey carried out in July 2019.