Let’s turn North Lincolnshire purple for Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month

Julie Reed
Julie Reed

November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month and North Lincolnshire Council is encouraging local businesses to light up their buildings purple to raise awareness of pancreatic cancer during this month.

Throughout November North Lincolnshire Council is encouraging people to talk about pancreatic cancer and raise awareness of the symptoms.

Organisations in North Lincolnshire that will be showing their support and helping to raise awareness by lighting their buildings purple, the colour of Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month are:

Northern Lincolnshire and Goole Hospitals Trust will be lighting up Global House on Kingsway

North Lindsey College will be lighting up the front of their building and also the Diner

British Steel Furnace

Humber University Technical College

Café Indiependent

Stagecoach will light up their office, two vehicles and hold a Wear it Purple Day

NLC will be lighting up some of its buildings as well, including Church Square House, Civic Centre, The Angel, 20-21 Visual Arts Centre, Scunthorpe Central Library and The Action Station.

If you would like to light up your business, visit Light up

Pancreatic cancer affects men and women. Each year on average 13 men and 14 women are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and around 14 men and 14 women die each year 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).

The three most common symptoms are:

Pain in the stomach or back

Jaundice

Unexpected weight loss

New onset diabetes not associated with weight gain

If you have any of these symptoms, book an appointment with your GP as soon as possible to get checked out.

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.

More information about Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month can be found at: Pancreatic Cancer

World Pancreatic Cancer Day 2017 is on Thursday 16 November and gives the opportunity to unite as part of the Purple Lights for Pancreatic Cancer campaign and show support for people with pancreatic cancer, remember those who have sadly died of the disease whilst also raising awareness of the disease.

Councillor Julie Reed, cabinet member for adults and health, said: “Pancreatic cancer is the fifth biggest cancer killer. It is important that we help 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. Make sure you don’t ignore the symptoms and see your GP.

“Last year during Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month we saw buildings up and down the country lit up purple. This year we really want to paint North Lincolnshire purple and are calling on all North Lincolnshire businesses to take part by either lighting their business up or help raise awareness in other ways.

“By helping us turn North Lincolnshire and the UK purple during November 2017, you can play your part in raising awareness and generating discussion around pancreatic cancer. This can be by lighting a building purple or wearing purple clothing – it all helps.”

The North Lincolnshire charity Hope Is Contagious was set up by Maggie Watts after she lost her husband to pancreatic cancer. The charity aims to help raise awareness, promote earlier detection and engage more research to improve life outcomes of those suffering from pancreatic cancer. For further information on how you can support this local campaign visit: www.hopeiscontagious.co.uk/our-story-so-far.

Case study

North Lincolnshire resident Ann Brown found out she had pancreatic cancer in March 2013. Ann said: “Due to the fact that I run a busy shop, I work nearly 12 hours a day, six days a week. I have always been fortunate to have good health to work these hours, along with my hobbies. In 2012 I noticed that I seemed to be getting heartburn quite often and constantly burping. I put this down to my diet as it seem to be fatty foods that caused it. So I carried on working and stopped eating fatty foods.

“From October to end of March it is non-stop in my business. November, December and January are manic – like all retailers are. I noticed in February 2013 that I was tired – in fact, exhausted and still getting heartburn and tummy problems. I put it all down to working hard. At the beginning of March 2013 I started to itch all over. Thinking I had a skin allergy, I took antihistamines. I also noticed that my urine was darker than normal, my stools were loose and pale, and I had lost weight. I also felt very tired and my appetite was not good. At night I got very bad cramps in my legs. The itching was now driving me crazy.

“I went to the doctors, where he noticed that my eyes were yellow. He asked me about my health, I told him the symptoms I had felt for the last few months. He said I needed a blood test and an ultrasound scan, and also thought it could be pancreatic cancer. (I only wanted cream for the itching).

“The next day I had a blood test and was told the doctor had requested an ultrasound scan, and that he had written to Scunthorpe General Hospital and that I should get an appointment within two weeks to see a consultant. (I still wasn’t taking in what was happening).

“Scunthorpe General Hospital rang the following day to say they had an appointment available, so I went for an ultrasound scan. I felt lucky I didn’t have to wait long. It was an anxious weekend.

“On the Monday, my GP rang to confirm I had a tumour at the head of my pancreas and that I would be seen by a consultant within the next two weeks. I rang my daughters and told them. We were all stunned and shocked but I assured them I would be seen by a consultant soon. My daughters turned up later in the day to tell me I was going to London the next day as I have an appointment for a CT scan and an appointment with a pancreatic cancer specialist. I protested about going but they insisted. I felt a bit guilty as my GPs were doing their best to get me sorted.

“I saw Mr Charles Imber in London, and following my CT scan he confirmed my condition, which seemed to be contained and had not spread to other organs. My daughter asked if I could have a Whipple’s Procedure. He said I was well enough to go through the seven hour operation and that he could do it. However if the tumour had wrapped around the main artery then the operation would then only be two and half hours. I decided to go through with the operation on 4 April 2013 after my daughters pleaded with me.

“So much had happened in a week. I was not really taking it all in. I still couldn’t believe this was happening to me. The itching got worse and I couldn’t sleep. The itching was caused by the build-up of bilirubin in my blood. The tumour was blocking the pathway between my gallbladder and pancreas, so all my blood was being poisoned.

“I was exhausted and the itching was driving me crazy. I had no energy, I wasn’t eating and my skin was yellow. I attended Accident and Emergency to see if they could give something for the itching as the tablets and cream didn’t work. I was making my skin bleed and I needed something to help me sleep. My daughters contacted Mr Charles Imber and he recommended having a stent fitted to reduce the bilirubin in my blood.

“I went back to London to have a stent fitted. This didn’t work straight away as a normal bilirubin count is around 20, mine was over 400 and so it would take a while.

“I had my operation in London on 4 April 2013, which took seven hours. The surgeon removed my gallbladder, half of my stomach, part of my small bowel, part of my duodenum, and the head of my pancreas with the tumour - which had just attached to my main artery - which he was able to pull off. He also removed 22 lymph nodes and found cancer in two of these. (How lucky I had been).

“Ten days later after being in intensive care, I left hospital as I had made good recovery. I felt weak and sore due to the operation. From now on I have to take creon tablets, enzymes taken from a pig, before I eat anything – a habit I found hard to get into.

“On 1 May 2013, I started chemotherapy for six months as York Hospital as my daughter lives near York. This was a belts and braces treatment which I found tiring at times, but coped very well as it had to be done to give me a chance of survival. My body was still recovering from the operation so couldn’t do a lot. It would take me two years to get over the operation and chemo. I finished chemo in November 2013. Now I have check-ups every six months.

“I remember vividly the day that I felt normal again, it was like switching on a light switch.

“In February 2015 I went to see a consultant as I had lost a lot of weight and wasn’t looking great. I had to have a CT scan. There was a worry that the cancer had come back. A week later I had the scan that showed no cancer. It turned out that I was not taking enough creon with my food. The doctor upped by dose and I stuck to taking them religiously.

“All is going well as I kept taking the creon tablets. My three monthly check-ups are now every six months.

“At my last check up the oncologist doctor said that I am now past the critical stage, and into the survival stage if pancreatic cancer and that I am very lucky. I am now four and half years post operation. My fingers are crossed that my good fortune continues. I will always be thankful to my GPs who recognised my symptoms and took action straightaway. It means that from my diagnosis of pancreatic cancer to the Whipple’s Procedure to remove it took just over two weeks.

“At the time of my operation I never realised how fatal pancreatic cancer can be. It was only months after the fact that I learned about the horrendous survival rate. So for me, I just got on with life. I didn’t give the disease a second thought. I feel incredibly lucky that I have come out the other side feeling not too dissimilar to how I did before. My taste buds have changed and I have trouble lifting heavy objects. But most people are not so lucky.

“For years, women have been aware if you feel a breast lump it could be serious. For years men have been aware that if you can’t pass urine it could be serious. For years we have all been aware that finding blood in your stools could be serious. Because we are aware of how serious the symptoms for these cancers can be, we see a doctor, who refers us for blood tests and scans.

“Pancreatic cancer is different. Heartburn, burping, exhaustion, upset stomach, itching, these symptoms have previously be dealt with a quick prescription of antihistamines. So now our aim is that pancreatic cancer has the same awareness. It could be serious.”