'Better awareness of pancreatic cancer could've saved my mum'

ITV News Central Reporter Sarah Kilburn-Wilson reports on a new campaign to increase awareness of pancreatic cancer

A woman from Worcestershire who lost her mum to pancreatic cancer, says she might still be alive today if more people were aware of the symptoms.

Two months after Charlotte Flynn's mum, Helen, celebrated her 60th birthday, she was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer and given six to nine months to live. Her family was completely shocked because they had assumed that her recent weight loss was due to a new diet plan.

Helen was given three months of chemotherapy and the side-effects that she suffered were so horrendous that she decided to abandon further treatment and focus on the quality, rather than quantity of her life. She died at home, only seven months after her diagnosis. Charlotte believes that her family was robbed of precious time with her mum. 

"Mum asked the question that I couldn't, which was... 'How long have I got left?'"

Pancreatic Cancer UK has launched a new appeal called Lost Voices: Help us break through the silence, to drive donations for vital research breakthroughs into the deadliest common cancer, which sees more than half of the people diagnosed die within three months.

In its new, emotive video, the voices of much-loved celebrities who sadly lost their lives to pancreatic cancer, including Alan Rickman, Sir John Hurt, Aretha Franklin, Patrick Swayze and Steve Jobs, have been interwoven with those of other celebrities, including Olivia Williams and Ruby Wax who have personally been affected by the disease. Through a combination of humour, intrigue and shocking facts, the voices deliver a powerful and urgent collective message to educate the public about pancreatic cancer and what they can do to help. 

What is pancreatic cancer?

Pancreatic cancer is a cancer that's found anywhere in the pancreas. The pancreas is an organ in the top part of your tummy. It helps you digest your food and makes hormones, such as insulin. How serious pancreatic cancer is depends on where it is in the pancreas, how big it is, if it has spread, and your general health.

What are the symptoms of pancreatic cancer?

Pancreatic cancer may not have any symptoms, or they might be hard to spot. Main symptoms can include:

  • the whites of your eyes or your skin turning yellow (jaundice), you may also have itchy skin, darker pee and paler stools than usual

  • loss of appetite or feeling tired or having no energy

  • a high temperature, or feeling hot or shivery

Other symptoms can affect your digestion, such as:

  • feeling or being sick

  • diarrhoea or constipation, or other changes in your stool

  • pain at the top part of your tummy and your back, which may feel worse when you are eating or lying down and better when you lean forward

  • symptoms of indigestion, such as feeling bloated

Source: NHS

Pancreatic cancer remains so deadly because a lack of clear symptoms and inadequate research means people are diagnosed too late; their voices are lost and there's no one to speak up - that's despite the fact that, by 2026, pancreatic cancer will become the fourth biggest cancer killer. Campaigners say research into the disease has been critically underfunded for decades with very little progress in the past 40 years.

> Son warns about late diagnosis of pancreatic cancer after dad dies three months after diagnosis

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