Home » 11 days from diagnosis to death – the reality of living with pancreatic cancer

11 days from diagnosis to death – the reality of living with pancreatic cancer

ONLY 7.3% of pancreatic cancer patients in the UK will survive 5 years after their diagnosis. In some areas of Wales, that number is as low as 3%.   

This June, Pancreatic Cancer Action are launching their PC Aware Wales Campaign which aims to raise awareness of the more common symptoms of pancreatic cancer with the public and provide accredited eLearning to health care professionals to improve early diagnosis and save lives.  

Pancreatic cancer is the 6th biggest cancer killer in Wales causing over 500 deaths a year.

Deaths like that of Rob Dursley, a fit and healthy 69-year-old Electrical Contracts Manager from Cardiff who within the space of 11 days went from playing football with his grandson Connor to becoming bed-bound and unable to walk. 

Rob went to the doctors on March 23 2020 complaining of back pain, stomach pain and bloating. He was diagnosed with suspected IBS and put on medication, which had no effect on his symptoms. 

When he returned to the doctors on April 15, a new GP asked about his family history. Rob explained that his father had died of pancreatic cancer – before this, no one had asked about his family history. 

On April 17 after visiting his local hospital, Rob received the kind of call that nobody can prepare you for – not only did he have pancreatic cancer, but the cancer had already spread to his liver and lungs. He was given mere weeks to live.

In the days that followed, Rob’s health drastically declined. His daughter Beth moved in to care for him alongside his wife Gill and his son, Gareth. Rob’s wish was to spend the final days of his life in his home, surrounded by and looked after by his family.

Rob got his wish. But he sadly passed away on April 29 2020, just 11 days after he received his original diagnosis. Due to the pandemic, the hospital bed his family had ordered was delayed and arrived one day after he had already passed away. His family had to wait an entire year to scatter his ashes together because of the Covid-19 restrictions.

This heartbreaking story is just one example of the devastating effect pancreatic cancer can have on peoples’ lives and the lives of their families who are left behind. There are too many stories like Rob’s.

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Early diagnosis is currently the only hope of patient survival. When the cancer is diagnosed early, the pancreas can be removed which, at present, is the only cure for the disease.

But this all starts with awareness. Due to the ambiguous nature of pancreatic cancer symptoms, many people don’t realise they have it until it is too late.

Symptoms such as mid-back pain, upper abdominal pain, change in bowel habits and unexplained weight loss are commonly ignored by individuals and misdiagnosed by healthcare professionals. But when detected early, they drastically increase an individual’s chances of pancreatic cancer survival.

The PC Aware Campaign aims to increase public awareness of the symptoms of pancreatic cancer amongst the general public in Wales whilst working closely with welsh healthcare professionals such as GPs and pharmacists to raise awareness of the disease amongst those who are in the best position to diagnose it. 

Ali Stunt, Pancreatic Cancer Action CEO said “The statistics when you receive a pancreatic cancer diagnosis are harrowing – particularly in Wales. Those who are diagnosed early and in time for surgery have an increased 5-year survival rate of around 30%. Therefore our PCA Wales campaign will be doing vital work to raise awareness and to save peoples’ lives.”

Pancreatic Cancer Action is the only charity in the UK that focuses on improving survival rates for people with pancreatic cancer.

For more information head to https://pancreaticcanceraction.org/