Awareness of pancreatic cancer among the UK population is extremely low. Furthermore, every year there are around 9,263 deaths from pancreatic cancer in the UK and, shockingly, just under 7% of people diagnosed with the disease will survive five years.
This is largely because pancreatic cancer is diagnosed too late for surgery, which, accompanied by chemotherapy, is the only treatment. After surgery, survival rates increase to 30%.
Early diagnosis of any cancer is critical to improving a person’s chance of survival, as early-stage cancer is more responsive to treatment. Pancreatic cancer is a very aggressive form, as the tumour begins to metastasise very quickly, therefore early diagnosis is vital.
Pharmacists and their teams are well placed to identify key signs of pancreatic cancer, both through customer interaction and by reviewing medicines they have been prescribed or are requesting over the counter. Pharmacists can therefore play a crucial role in aiding early diagnosis.
To tackle this issue, the charity I founded – Pancreatic Cancer Action (PCA) – is launching its first awareness initiative in Northern Ireland targeting the general public, pharmacy teams and GPs to ensure as many people are aware of pancreatic cancer as possible.
We know that to increase early diagnosis of pancreatic cancer a multi-pronged approach is required. Increasing awareness and overcoming barriers to diagnosis among the public will not be effective without corresponding increased awareness among healthcare professionals.
We believe that engaging with the whole population and healthcare professionals is an important step in creating equal access to healthcare and an effective, efficient diagnostic pathway.
Free e-learning module
PCA is providing pharmacies with free resources to help them diagnose and manage patients with pancreatic cancer. The resources include access to a National Pharmacy Association-accredited e-learning module, which aims to educate and refresh health professionals’ knowledge of the disease.
As someone who had the fortune of being diagnosed early, I need to make sure other people can have the same outcome.
If a pharmacist does not feel 100% confident about spotting the signs of the disease, I would encourage them to take our free e-learning module to refresh their knowledge.
By ensuring that more people are aware of the disease, the symptoms and their risk, we can help change the story for pancreatic cancer. It is not ‘the silent killer’, as it has been dubbed. Being able to identify when someone may be experiencing symptoms will help more patients to be diagnosed in time for surgery and potentially save their lives.
To find out more about the free e-learning module or order your free resource pack, please visit the Pancreatic Cancer Action website.