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Vague abdominal symptoms focus for Be Clear on Cancer

Posted by: Information & support 10 February 2017

Public Health England’s annual ‘Be Clear on Cancer’ awareness campaign has launched today, with the focus this year being vague abdominal symptoms or ‘tummy troubles’ that have lasted for three or more weeks and could be a sign of cancer.

The campaign, which is being piloted in the East and West Midlands regions, encourages people over the age of 50 who may be experiencing symptoms such as abdominal pain, changes to their bowel habits or bloating and discomfort to visit their GP.

Around 55,800 people in the Midlands are diagnosed with cancer each year, 1,435 of them will receive a pancreatic cancer diagnosis. The Be Clear on Cancer campaign stresses that an early diagnosis of cancer will give people more options for treatment and should improve their chances of living longer.

Pancreatic Cancer UK is extremely pleased that Public Health England has chosen to raise awareness of vague abdominal symptoms in its latest campaign, as this is a public health campaign that the charity has been calling for for a while, and the charity provided input into its development. We hope the campaign will help ensure more people are diagnosed earlier. The lack of knowledge about pancreatic cancer symptoms in particular is extremely worrying with 67% of people in the East Midlands and 74% of people in the West Midlands not being able to name a single symptom of pancreatic cancer, according to research by ComRes carried out on behalf of Pancreatic Cancer UK.

Currently over three quarters (80 per cent) of people with pancreatic cancer are not diagnosed until the disease is advanced, at which point there are very few treatment options, and surgery, the only potential curative treatment, is not possible. Just eight per cent of people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer have surgery.

Jeni Jones, Specialist Nurse at Pancreatic Cancer UK said: “We know that many people are not aware that persistent tummy troubles could be a sign of pancreatic cancer. We would urge people who are worried about any symptoms they are experiencing that have lasted for three weeks or more, to see their GP. There’s a good chance the symptoms aren’t caused by cancer, but it’s important to get them checked out regardless.

“We want to encourage people to talk openly about any symptoms they have been experiencing, no matter how embarrassing or trivial they might seem. Keeping a diary can be a good way to remember what symptoms you’ve had and how frequently they’re occurring. Information that might seem irrelevant to you might help a health professional find the missing piece of the puzzle, which may result in an earlier diagnosis and more options for treatment.”

Nottingham resident and Pancreatic Cancer UK supporter, Cliff Pettifor (74) said: “I’d always been healthy, and enjoyed running to keep fit. But between January and May in 2009 I had several bouts of illness, feeling sick and had an ache across my stomach. I went to my doctor, who, after seeing my blood test results, referred me to my local hospital in Nottingham. Following further tests, they found a growth in my pancreas. I was prepared for the worst, but was fortunate – my cancer could be operated on. It is seven years since my operation and, all in all, life is great – I work part-time and I still go running.”

Warwick resident and Pancreatic Cancer UK supporter, Chris Edmonson (64) said: “I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer two years ago. I was experiencing discomfort in my tummy for some time and things didn’t feel right. I went to see my GP who referred me for a scan. My scan uncovered that I had pancreatic cancer. I was shocked by the diagnosis but pleased that I managed to catch it early and have been treated. The tumor has now been removed and I’m feeling hopeful for the future. My message to anyone suffering tummy troubles would be to listen to your body and visit the doctor if your symptoms don’t go away after three weeks.”