Yesterday marked World Cancer Day; this year I’m raising awareness and donating money to Cancer Research UK for pancreatic cancer in particular.
During December 2014 I suffered from an attack of acute pancreatitis (AP) and was hospitalised for a week. It took a while to recover from it, too, and whilst I was recovering I learnt more about the pancreas and it’s importance. I learnt that many sufferers of recurrent AP soon develop chronic pancreatitis (CP) which has devastating consequences on both the pancreas and the patient as you can see from the diagram below. Sufferers of CP are more likely to develop pancreatic cancer despite both illnesses being as destructive and lethal to the human body as each other.
Last year, I joined an online forum of pancreatitis sufferers to see how others coped with pancreatitis and it made me realise how underrated issues with the pancreas are; not only are sufferers at a distinct disadvantage with lack of funding involving treatment and specialist consultations but the symptoms of CP and eventually pancreatic cancer are often disguised as other health issues until it’s too late to treat. On this forum, patients were posting their symptoms which predominately consisted of pain and asked for support and advice. Tragically, in the short space of two months that I was a part of this group, two active members died as a result of chronic pancreatitis with many others sharing their stories of finding out they now suffered from pancreatic cancer.
Cancer of the pancreas is the 10th most common cancer worldwide, with approximately 8.8k sufferers a year.¹ Its cause it still yet to be determined but it’s believed that pancreatitis (and on-going inflammation of the pancreas) along with hereditary factors, diet, alcohol consumption and being overweight are all contributing factors.²
Symptoms also vary; 70% of patients experienced pain in the stomach and back prior to their diagnosis, with others being jaundiced or noticing sudden weight loss. Not everyone experiences symptoms, however, which contributes to a late diagnosis and devastating statistics. For example, a distressing 20% of patients survive a year after their initial diagnosis.³ Only 20%. Of course, early diagnosis gives a patient a stronger chance of survival but these diagnoses are only possible with sufficient funding, allowing furthermore research into this illness. With enough money, clinical trials can take place to test treatments, vaccines and chemotherapy amongst other forms of treatment thereby contributing to a stronger chance of survival.
Fundamentally, donating even £3 will allow researchers to find the causes of pancreatic cancer, which could eliminate thousands of potential patients. With better knowledge of the disease, the options of treatment are broader, all contributing to a higher survival rate. Please donate to Cancer Research UK, Macmillan or any other organisation helping support both patients and research facilities.
Everyday is #ADaytoUnite