AROUND 70 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer every week in Australia.
By the end of this year, almost 3600 Australians will have been told they have the deadly disease, with nearly as many dying from the cancer.
To mark World Pancreatic Cancer Day on November 21, Sydney's iconic Luna Park lit up in the colour purple at a gala event on eve of the event, to raise awareness about one of the world's deadliest cancer.
Pancreatic cancer has the lowest survival rate among all major cancers because few people know the risks and symptoms which means they are often diagnosed at an advanced stage.
Sydney woman Jessica Abelsohn lost her mother Rochelle to pancreatic cancer and in 2014 co-founded pancreatic cancer social media movement #PurpleOurWorld with her family to raise awareness of pancreatic cancer.
She is now chair of the World Pancreatic Cancer Day committee and said the message behind the day is to highlight the urgent need for earlier diagnosis to improve patient outcomes.
She said early detection is vital as well as knowing the risks and symptoms.
"The global World Pancreatic Cancer Day campaign focuses on the need to demand better for patients, allowing us to bring greater awareness for the disease," she said.
"This includes a better understanding of the symptoms as this is key to early detection and early detection saves lives."
She said the symptoms of pancreatic cancer are often vague and incorrectly attributed to other less serious and more common conditions.
Pancreatic surgeon and fouder of Pancare Foundation, Dr Mehrdad Nikfarjam, said there is a desperate need for improvements in treatment for the disease.
"Pancreatic cancer remains one of the most lethal cancers due to a lack of early detection and effective treatment options," Dr Nikfarjam said.
"Survival rates for pancreatic cancer have not changed significantly in nearly 40 years and that is simply not good enough, especially when you consider the progress made in the detection and treatment of so many other cancers over the past four decades."
"We're yet to find effective treatments in the fight against pancreatic cancer, making treatment options we can offer limited. Improvements in treatments are desperately needed, but to further investigate these treatments we need the funding to do so," he said.
There is currently no screening test available to detect pancreatic cancer and the theme for this year's World Pancreatic Cancer Day is #DemandBetter.
Symptoms of pancreatic cancer may include:
- Jaundice (yellow skin, eyes and dark urine).
- Pain in the upper abdomen. This may be a dull ache, a sensation of bloating or fullness or a burning type discomfort.
- Lack of appetite, nausea and weight loss.
- A sudden change in blood sugars or onset diabetes.
- A change in bowel movements, from severe diarrhea or constipation.
- NOTE: Having one or more of the symptoms listed above does not necessarily mean you have pancreatic cancer. It is important to discuss any symptoms with your doctor.
Currently, there is no screening test for pancreatic cancer. Anyone experiencing one or more persistent symptoms should mention pancreatic cancer to their healthcare provider, as patients that are diagnosed at an earlier stage when surgery is an option are more likely to live five years and beyond.
While the cause of most pancreatic cancer causes is unknown, there is evidence that smoking, being overweight, a family history of pancreatic cancer and chronic pancreatitis may increase an individual's risk of developing the disease.
Pancreatic cancer facts
- The chances of surviving five years after being diagnosed is just 9.8 per cent, compared to the breast cancer survival rate of 91 per cent.
- Around the world, more than 1,184 people die from the disease and the rate of diagnosis is on the rise.
- By 2030, pancreatic cancer is estimated to surpass breast, colon and prostate cancers and become the second leading cause of cancer related death.
World Pancreatic Cancer Day is an initiative of the World Pancreatic Cancer Coalition, bringing together more than 80 organisations from over 30 countries around the world.
"We campaign for every other family going through what we went through. We campaign so that families can have one more day, one more month, one more year with their loved ones," added Ms Abelsohn.
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