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UK landmarks to turn purple in support of World Pancreatic Cancer Day

Posted: 17/11/2016

A number of landmarks around the country are set to glow the colour purple on 17 November 2016 to mark World Pancreatic Cancer Day and to raise awareness of the disease which is set to become the third biggest killer in Europe.

Penningtons Manches is supporting the campaign to improve public knowledge of the disease and the typical symptoms that often go undiagnosed. Research reveals that every year almost 9,000 men and women are newly diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and, due to late diagnosis, they face an average life expectancy of just three to six months.

Pancreatic cancer has claimed the lives of a number of famous people too, most notably this year, actor Alan Rickman, and it is anticipated that the death rate for those who suffer from this disease will rise. 

Do you know the symptoms?

A survey carried out by Pancreatic Cancer UK, published this month, revealed that three quarters of the UK public could not name a single symptom of pancreatic cancer. This is of course extremely worrying as a lack of awareness about the symptoms can lead to a delay in diagnosis.

What is the pancreas?

The pancreas is a large gland situated in the abdomen between the stomach and the spine. The widest part is called the head, the middle part is called the body and the thin part is called the tail. It is surrounded by a number of other large organs such as the liver, stomach, spleen and intestines.

The pancreas produces enzymes that help break down food so the body can absorb it as well as a number of hormones. The most important is insulin which helps to regulate the amount of sugar in the blood. 

What are the symptoms?

The reason pancreatic cancer is often so difficult to diagnose is that it does not usually cause any symptoms in the early stages. 

Symptoms may come and go at first and this means that people can visit their GP a number of times before pancreatic cancer is even considered. The symptoms can also be signs of other types of illnesses.

The most common symptoms include:

  • abdominal pain – often a general discomfort in the abdomen which can spread to the back. It can become worse after eating and when lying down. Sitting forward can sometimes relieve the pain;
  • jaundice – the skin and whites of the eyes turn yellow, there can also be dark urine, pale stools and itchy skin;
  • weight loss – losing weight for no known reason, loss of appetite and difficulty in digesting highly fatty food. 

Other symptoms can include:

  • steatorrhoea – stools that are large, pale, oily, floating and smelling (usually the result of undigested highly fatty food)
  • nausea
  • fever/shivering
  • indigestion/heartburn
  • blood clots
  • diabetes
  • extreme tiredness/fatigue
  • feeling unusually full after food
  • unexplained acute inflammation of the pancreas (acute pancreatitis) 

For further information on pancreatic cancer, please visit the Pancreatic Cancer UK website.

Emma Beeson, an associate in the clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches LLP, says: “As someone with a family member who has been affected by pancreatic cancer, I know all too well the importance of raising awareness of the symptoms. Knowledge helps to avoid late diagnosis which can often mean that treatment is ineffective and the prognosis is poor. Unfortunately, even in the face of obvious signs and symptoms, there can still be a failure to diagnose cancer and we act for a number of patients whose condition could have been detected at an earlier stage. It is hoped that raising awareness of the symptoms will give patients the power and knowledge they need to speak to their doctors if they feel that something is being overlooked.”

If you or any members of your family have concerns about a delay in diagnosing cancer, our specialist team may be able to assist.

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