NI knows "almost nothing" about pancreatic cancer

  • According to a recent survey, Northern Ireland has a worryingly low knowledge of the pancreas and pancreatic cancer, with 61% knowing ‘almost nothing’ about the disease.

    The survey conducted by UK charity, Pancreatic Cancer Action showed that 81% of residents were also unable to name a single symptom of pancreatic cancer. This figure is not only the second highest in the UK but considerably higher than other areas including London (66%).

    73% of people surveyed in the country could not name any of the factors that increase the chances of getting pancreatic cancer and are therefore unaware of their own risk.  

    Pancreatic Cancer Action stated that pancreatic cancer is not just an old man’s disease. 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.  

    It is the UK’s fifth biggest cancer killer (soon to overtake breast cancer as the fourth) and a person is five 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 controls 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.  

    Despite having a shockingly low survival rate, it is possible to survive pancreatic cancer: if a patient is diagnosed early and able to have surgery, five-year survival increases from less than 7% to around 30%. 

    RELATED: QUB researchers improve assessment of prostate cancer aggression

    This November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month and Pancreatic Cancer Action is 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.  

    Grainne O’Neill from Armagh, sadly lost her mother to pancreatic cancer. She said: “'Early diagnosis means that another family might get to avoid the heartache that we went through.

    “Early diagnosis will gives those patients a fighting chance. My mummy was only 54 when she passed away, I don't want this to happen to other families. With pancreatic cancer we need hope and we need change.”

    To help Pancreatic Cancer Action in their mission to save lives through early  diagnosis, visit and order your free Turn it Purple pack 

    RELATED: QUB researchers develop early test for ovarian cancer

    About the author

    Niamh is a Sync NI writer with a previous background of working in FinTech and financial crime. She has a special interest in sports and emerging technologies. To connect with Niamh, feel free to send her an email or connect on Twitter.

    Got a news-related tip you’d like to see covered on Sync NI? Email the editorial team for our consideration.

Share this story