If you were asked to name the fifth biggest cause of cancer deaths in the UK, would you get the right answer? And would you know how to spot the signs and symptoms and what the prognosis is for patients?
If not, you are not alone: When surveyed, 52 per cent of the British public knew ‘almost nothing’ about pancreatic cancer, and 76 per cent couldn’t name a single symptom. However, more than 9,000 people die of the disease every year across the country, often within weeks of their diagnosis.
You can brush up your knowledge of pancreatic cancer and raise awareness of the disease at the same time by getting involved in Pancreatic Cancer Awareness month this November. Your pharmacy could even win an award for your efforts.
How to take part
After a year off due to the pandemic, the Turn it Purple Pharmacy Award is back for 2021. Organised by the charity Pancreatic Cancer Action, the award recognises outstanding work in helping to raise public awareness of the disease. If you take part, not only could you win an award, but you could also receive publicity in leading pharmacy magazines, be featured in Pancreatic Cancer Action’s ‘Action’ magazine, and more.
To register for a pack that includes everything you need to know about how to enter the award and start raising awareness of pancreatic cancer in your community, click here.
What is pancreatic cancer?
The causes of pancreatic cancer are unknown, and Pancreatic Cancer Action says that most cases occur out of the blue.
The disease can affect anyone, but outcomes vary according to socioeconomic background, ethnicity and age. There are also certain risk factors that don’t necessarily mean a person will develop the disease, but do make the chance of it happening more likely.
- Chronic pancreatitis (more common in people who have a history of gallstones, smoking or drinking a lot of alcohol, but may also be genetic)
- Family history of the disease (genetics).
Sadly, there have been barely any improvements in pancreatic cancer survival rates in the last 50 years. But in 2020, Pancreatic Cancer Action set itself a 10-year goal of increasing the UK five-year survival rate to 13 per cent. Currently, the five-year survival rate is less than 8 per cent, and the UK lags behind other high-income countries in this respect.
For those diagnosed in time for surgery, the five-year survival increases to around 30 per cent. This is not happening enough in the UK, however, so there is a massive need to raise awareness among pharmacy customers so that people can get diagnosed as early as possible.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms listed below are some of the main signs of pancreatic cancer. Sufferers may not have all of these, and they may come and go a vary in severity:
- Jaundice: yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes, and/or very itchy skin
- Upper abdominal pain or discomfort which may radiate to the back
- Mid-back pain or discomfort where a bra strap would sit and may be eased by leaning forward
- Pale, smelly stools that don’t flush easily
- Loss of appetite
- Indigestion that is not responding to medication
- Nausea and vomiting
- New onset diabetes not associated with weight gain
- A change in bowel habit
- Unexplained weight loss.
It is important to note that these symptoms can be caused by many different conditions, including irritable bowel syndrome or indigestion, and aren’t usually the result of cancer.
However, if a customer reports regularly experience one or more of these symptoms which are not normal for them, they should contact their GP straight away.
Also this month...
Alcohol Awareness Week 2021: 15-21 November
Alcohol Awareness Week is a chance for the UK to get thinking about drinking. It’s a week of awareness-raising, campaigning for change, and more. The theme for Alcohol Awareness Week 2021 is ‘Alcohol and relationships’.
Alcohol and relationships are closely linked. But when someone’s own or a loved one’s drinking starts to negatively affect their relationships or stands in the way of them taking action on their own drinking, it can have a huge impact.
Already more than 4,000 public health teams, workplaces, GP surgeries, pharmacies, hospitals, charities and other community groups have signed up to take part to share stories, factsheets, tips and more. It’s easy to get involved… just click here to sign up.
World COPD Day 2021: 17 November
Living with COPD (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) can be difficult. It is a progressive condition for which there is no cure, and everyday tasks can be challenging. However, there is a lot that people can do to self-manage their condition and improve their quality of life. For instance, understanding the disease and keeping active can make a big difference.
This year, the theme of World COPD Day is ‘Healthy Lungs – Never More Important’, and you can download artwork for use in your pharmacy and on your digital communications.
You can also signpost patients to help them live better with the condition by directing them to the British Lung Foundation's support.