IT’S notoriously late to be diagnosed so don’t ignore the potential symptoms of pancreatic cancer, a group at York Hospital has urged.

When Sheila Cooper, 72, from Huntington, began to suffer from a persistent pain below her ribs she instinctively knew it was more than gallstones. “I knew there was something wrong,” she said, “I said to my daughter-in-law, there’s definitely something going on in there.”

Her hospital referral became immediate when she began to suffer from other symptoms: an upset stomach, jaundice and terrible itching.

“You know when they hold your hand it’s not good news,” Sheila (pictured below) said, recalling eventually being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer which had spread through her body.

York Press:

Sheila’s cancer is terminal but she’s determined to live with positivity and is tonight hosting a sold out fundraiser at Huntington Working Mens Club to raise money for Pancreatic Cancer UK.

And she’s supporting a campaign led by the team at York Hospital to raise awareness of the disease which is the eleventh most common cancer in the UK but has one of the worst survival rates: less than one per cent of people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer survive ten years or more.

There are 27 pancreatic patients currently having chemotherapy in York Hospital.

Among them is Geoffrey Underwood (pictured below), 73, from Thorpe Willoughby. He has a similar story to Sheila having suffered from a persistent pain in his ribs, which radiated into his back. At points the pain became so severe he struggled to sit or lie down.

York Press:

But his diagnosis was slow as his symptom was mistaken for other conditions, including pancreatitis. When he was diagnosed Geoffrey was also told he could receive chemotherapy to extend his life but the cancer had spread and was incurable.

“I had no idea. I had no idea to think about pancreatic cancer,” he said.

Both agree on the importance of early diagnosis.

“If there’s anything unusual for you then go to the doctors,” Sheila said, “Persist with it. Go to your GP. Ask for a scan.”

York Hospital has a new support group for people with pancreatic cancer in York and surrounding areas.

It is the first support group at the hospital for patients and relatives affected by pancreatic cancer.

The next meeting will be on November 23 at York Hospital between 1.30 – 3pm. For further info call 01904-726482.


THE key symptoms of pancreatic cancer are:

- A nagging upper abdominal pain, radiating into the back, which may be worse at night.

- Unexpected weight loss and a suppressed appetite

- Loose stools

- New onset diabetes

- Unexplained jaundice

Speaking during pancreatic cancer awareness month, York Hospital oncologist Dr Kim Last outlined the symptoms above and said that while the outlook is often still poor “the treatments are getting better and chances of cure are much better the earlier the cancer is diagnosed.”

The pancreas is a large gland that's part of the digestive system.

Statistically around half of all new cases are diagnosed in people aged 75 or over. It’s uncommon in people under 40 years of age.

The three main treatments for pancreatic cancer are surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy. Different combinations of chemotherapy and more precise radiotherapy are offering hope for the future, he said.