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HAYES IN THE HOUSE: Wear purple to raise awareness of pancreatic cancer

In 2014, the World Pancreatic Cancer Coalition – comprising 80 advocacy organisations from 30 nations – launched the inaugural Pancreatic Cancer Day, marked this year on Thursday, November 19, to promoted outreach, visibility and engagement by encouraging people to ‘wear it purple.’

Though Pancreatic Cancer is the fifth most deadly and 11th most common cancer in England, survival and diagnostic rates still lag behind those in other developed nations.

A primary reason for this is the relative absence of knowledge regarding the function of the pancreas itself.

MP Sir John Hayes (43133845)
MP Sir John Hayes (43133845)

A substantial gland at the back of the abdomen, the pancreas is responsible for creating the enzymes required for the digestion of food and the hormones, including insulin, necessary for the regulation of blood sugar levels.

When a pancreatic cell becomes damaged, a single cancer cell can grow and divide rapidly, forming a


Though anyone can get pancreatic cancer, scientists have identified a number of risk factors including: age, smoking, obesity, family history and diabetes, all of which are known to increase the likelihood of developing the disease.

Tragically, pancreatic cancer has the lowest survival rate of any common cancer in the United Kingdom, with only seven per cent of sufferers living for five years following diagnosis.

For the 44% diagnosed through emergency presentation, only 11.9% will survive for longer than a year.

That’s why it is crucial to increase the number, currently 18%, of those able to obtain early diagnosis during stage one or two of the condition, enabling rapid treatment which dramatically improves outcomes.

So, this year’s World Pancreatic Cancer Day is focused on raising awareness about the initial signs and symptoms.

Though difficult to diagnose, as initial symptoms can be mild or vague and are often caused by pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), individuals are advised to see their doctor if they

experience digestive problems, abnormal stools, nausea or vomiting, pain in the upper abdomen and/or back, loss of appetite, sudden weight loss or jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes).

Last year, the NHS was praised for making a range of improvements in surgery and treatments, resulting in an impressive increase in survival rates across a number of cancers.

However, with experts revealing that an estimated 50,000 with cancer have missed diagnosis and 33,000 are facing delays to treatment as a result of COVID-19 lockdowns, it is more important than ever not to postpone a visit to healthcare providers.

Throughout life each of us face numerous difficult challenges, which often

require the help of families and friends to overcome.

Illness can strike anyone, anywhere at any time, which is why I see it as a duty to raise awareness and to press in Parliament for more to be done to cure the sick and suffering.

Alongside campaigners from the World Pancreatic Cancer Coalition, I will be wearing purple this Thursday and I hope you will too!

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