Voices of celebrities who died from pancreatic cancer used in awareness video

The voices of celebrities who lost their lives to pancreatic cancer, including Alan Rickman, Sir John Hurt and Patrick Swayze, have been used in a new charity video to raise awareness of the disease.

An appeal from Pancreatic Cancer UK paired snippets from the stars shows and interviews with an accompanying animation to boost awareness of the disease.

The piece also used shocking facts to deliver the collective message to educate the public about pancreatic cancer and what they can do to help.

Other famous voices, such as former Apple chief executive Steve Jobs, can be heard in an accompanying audio piece.

"I didn't even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable," Jobs says.

The piece comes as part of Pancreatic Awareness Month and the charity said that despite the number of high-profile deaths, little is known about the disease.

A recent survey of 2,000 people across the UK, conducted by ComRes, found that only 8% of the public knew the most common symptoms of pancreatic cancer.

Symptoms including back pain, indigestion and weight loss are vague, and there is no simple test to help doctors diagnose it.

Pancreatic Cancer UK said this leads many people to be diagnosed too late to receive lifesaving treatment.

The appeal, titled Lost Voices: Help us break through the silence, was produced by Jon Holmes and hopes to raise donations to fund research breakthroughs that will save lives.

Aretha Franklin, who died of pancreatic cancer in 2018, is referenced in the video. Credit: AP/Press Association Images

Rima Horton, Rickman’s widow and trustee for Pancreatic Cancer UK, said: “It’s hard to put into words just how truly horrific pancreatic cancer is and I think that’s a significant part of why it’s been neglected – why in 40 years we’ve seen barely any improvement in someone’s chances of survival.

“The sheer creativity at the heart of Lost Voices would have excited Alan, and I’m so pleased that he is part of it.

“The message he and the other wonderfully talented individuals we’ve lost to pancreatic cancer have for the public is urgent.

“Pancreatic cancer is the deadliest common cancer, but finding a cure isn’t a lost cause.

Actor Alan Rickman and his partner Labour Councillor Rima Horton

“With more research I know that a breakthrough will be made that will help save thousands of lives.”

Actress Olivia Williams, an ambassador for Pancreatic Cancer UK, said: “When I was asked to be ambassador for Pancreatic Cancer UK I was worried that I wasn’t famous enough to raise significant amounts of money.

“It became clear that all the really famous sufferers were dead.

“This fact devastated me, as I looked down the list of great singers, actors and scientists who had been lost too early, and too quickly.”

What are the most common signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer?

Pancreatic Cancer UK says the disease often does not cause symptoms in the early stages.

The charity adds: "As the cancer grows, it may start to cause symptoms. The symptoms may not be specific to pancreatic cancer, and they may come and go to begin with. This can make pancreatic cancer hard to diagnose."

According to the charity, common symptoms include digestion problems, such as:

  • Symptoms of indigestion, such as feeling bloated, or having a burning feeling in your chest

  • Weight loss without trying to

  • Tummy pain or back pain, which may start as tenderness or discomfort in the tummy and spread to the back. The pain may come and go at first but become more constant over time

  • The tummy or back pain can be worse when lying down, and sitting forward can sometimes make it feel better. It may be worse after eating

What are some of the symptoms of pancreatic cancer? Credit: Pancreatic Cancer UK

Other symptoms can include:

  • Jaundice - the whites of your eyes or your skin turn yellow, itchy skin, darker urine and paler stools than usual, some also feel sick or tired

  • Loss of appetite

  • Changes to bowel habits such as diarrhoea, constipation, or other changes in your stools such as large, pale, oily poo – called steatorrhoea

  • Feeling or being sick

  • Problems digesting food, such as feeling full quickly and wind

  • Feeling very tired or having no energy

  • Recently diagnosed diabetes

  • Having a fever and shivering

  • Struggling to swallow food properly

Where can I go to for help or advice?

People who have conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), gallstones, or pancreatitis may get some of the digestion symptoms listed above regularly, while other symptoms could be caused by more common complaints.

But the NHS says it's important to get checked by a GP if symptoms change, get worse, or do not feel normal for you.

However, if you have jaundice, to to A&E without delay.

The NHS guidance also says you should see a GP if you have:

  • Lost a noticeable amount of weight over the last six to 12 months without trying

  • Other symptoms of pancreatic cancer that get worse or do not get better after two weeks

  • A condition that causes symptoms with your digestion that are not getting better after two weeks of using your usual treatments

Pancreatic Cancer UK says: "Your GP may make a request (refer you) for tests at the hospital to work out what could be causing your symptoms. These tests might include blood tests or scans...

"If your symptoms don’t improve, go back to your GP until you get a diagnosis, or you are sent for tests to find out what’s causing them."

For more information, the Pancreatic Cancer UK and NHS websites offer further advice.

Diana Jupp, chief executive of Pancreatic Cancer UK, said: “Unlike other charities, we simply don’t have the army of survivors around us who do so much to provide hope and inspiration to people living with other forms of cancer.

“Pancreatic cancer is a truly terrifying disease – more than half of people die within three months of diagnosis.

“Many people, understandably, find it extremely difficult to talk about the impact on themselves and their loved ones.

“By harnessing the lost voices of some of the extraordinarily talented celebrities who have sadly died from pancreatic cancer, we want to break through the silence.”

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