FEATURE: Turn it purple for Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month

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This month is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, and North Lincolnshire Council wants to raise awareness of the symptoms, and encourage people to talk about the disease.

Pancreatic cancer affects men and women. Each year on average 15 men and 13 women are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in North Lincolnshire.

Pancreatic cancer is more common amongst the older ages; almost half the cases are diagnosed in people aged over 75. It is uncommon in people under 40 years old.

There are usually no symptoms in the early stages of pancreatic cancer making it hard to diagnose.

An estimated 37 per cent of pancreatic cancers in the UK are linked to lifestyle factors including smoking (29 per cent) and being overweight or obese (12 per cent).

North Lincolnshire has higher than average rates of excess weight amongst adults and similar rates of adult smoking to England.

Pancreatic cancer is the fifth largest cause of cancer death in North Lincolnshire and in the UK and around 15 men and 14 women die each year from it in the county.

The three most common symptoms are: pain in the stomach or back; jaundice; unexpected weight loss; new onset diabetes not associated with weight gain.

Pancreatic cancer is currently very difficult to diagnose. Upon diagnosis, most sufferers find they have untreatable terminal cancer with an average life expectancy of between three to six months. Surgery is currently the only cure for pancreatic cancer, but only 10 per cent are diagnosed in time for this to be an option.

Councillor Carl Sherwood, cabinet member for health and wellbeing, said: “Pancreatic cancer is the fifth biggest cancer killer. We want to raise awareness of this type of cancer and the common symptoms. Knowing the symptoms can help with early diagnosis and give you a better chance of surviving. Don’t ignore the symptoms, visit your GP straightaway.

“This Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month people are being asked to ‘Turn it Purple’, whether that is by wearing purple clothing or lighting up a building purple. It will get people talking about pancreatic cancer and hopefully fight against the odds.”

NLC leader, Coun Liz Redfern, said: “Pancreatic cancer is very close to my heart, having lost my husband eight years ago to the illness. It is hard to come to terms with losing a loved one and in many ways you don’t really get over it; you just have to find the strength to move forward and get on with your life.

“Pancreatic cancer is difficult to diagnose as usually there are no early warning symptoms, but it does tend to be more common among older people. It affects men and women - in North Lincolnshire alone, 15 men and 13 women are diagnosed with it each year. The council is showing its support for Pancreatic Awareness month in November by lighting up the main entrance area to the Civic Centre in Scunthorpe and The Angel in Brigg.

“The main symptoms of pancreatic cancer are pain in the tummy or back, jaundice, unexpected weight loss, and new onset diabetes not associated with weight gain. Early diagnosis is so important. If you are suffering any of these symptoms, go to your doctor and get it checked out before it’s too late.”

Visit http://pancreaticcanceraction.org for details.

* Maggie Watts tells her story

Maggie Watts lives in North Lincolnshire and she lost her husband Kevin to pancreatic cancer in 2009.

Her husband’s mum also died of pancreatic cancer in 1969 when she was just 27-years-old.

Maggie said: “What shocked me the most when my husband was diagnosed was that absolutely nothing had improved in survival rates since his mum died in 1969 even though 40 years has passed since she died.

“After my husband died I decided to see if I could create a bit of change and started a Government e-petition. After a year of hard work we managed to get 100,000 signatures needed for a debate.”

Maggie had the debate in parliament and change has resulted from that.

Maggie explains: “I intend to focus my attention now on pushing for public awareness of the disease as early diagnosis is the only way to survive and sadly most people are diagnosed at a very late stage and prognosis is grim, often only weeks left to live.”

Maggie’s new campaign #HopeIsContagious is being launched in November to coincide with Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month and is aimed at getting much needed public awareness of the disease.

* World Pancreatic Cancer Day (WPCD) takes place on Thursday November 17 when individuals and organisations across the globe will join forces to show that they are “in it together” in their aim to raise awareness of pancreatic cancer.

There are a number of ways you can get involved: join the WPCD Thunderclap to add a social media post on November 17 showing #InItTogether; follow WPCD on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, using the hashtag #WPCD to follow the action; join the WPCD Facebook event