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

A grieving son has made a documentary warning people of the dangers of late diagnosis of pancreatic cancer after his father died of the disease last year. Daniel Kennedy, from South Manchester, filmed the last few days of his dad Paul Kennedy's life for ITV's Tonight programme in a bid to raise awareness of the disease.

Paul was diagnosed with late-stage pancreatic cancer in 2019 and passed away just three months after his diagnosis on 2nd April 2020.

Filmaker Daniel Kennedy wants to raise awareness of the disease.

The pensioner had been to see his GP five times as well as visiting A&E, that same year, with complaints of pains in his stomach, but doctors found nothing.

Before Christmas, Paul started to turn yellow, itchy and was in a lot of pain so Daniel took him to a private hospital for a CT scan - that's when they discovered he had cancer.

According to health professionals, Pancreatic cancer is the deadliest common cancer and survival rates haven’t improved in 40 years.

There are over 10,000 new cases of pancreatic cancer each year in the UK and only around 7% of those diagnosed survive beyond five years.

Daniel went to meet the consultant surgeon who found his dad's cancer, Thomas Satyadas, to find out why his dad did not survive. The doctor explained the tumor was inoperable due to its size and location.

Consultant surgeon Declan Dunne from Liverpool University Hospital NHS Trust said: "We know that delays to surgery are associated with higher rates of inoperable disease at surgery so we know it is important to get surgery quick, ideally within 6 weeks."

According to specialists in the field of combating pancreatic cancer, the best way to treat someone with the disease is to catch it early, operate, and followed up with chemotherapy.

How do we catch the disease early?

It all starts at the first point of contact - the GP's surgery, but the problem is there are still no tests available on the market to detect early-stage pancreatic cancer although some are being developed.

According to the latest statistics, more than half of all Pancreatic cancer patients will be diagnosed at the latest Stage 4 - by then the illness is terminal.

The tests being developed look promising but the biggest issue is that it is hard to get an accurate reading, as there is very little blood available from patients in the earliest stages because so few are diagnosed.

There is currently a trial being developed called the Galleri trial- it identifies 50 common cancers at an early stage including pancreatic cancer and involves a simple blood test.

Another idea that specialists are looking at is screening people like they do for breast cancer. They are aiming to screen at-risk groups like people who have a family history of pancreatic cancer.

If you are interested in finding out more about a trial being carried out by the Royal Liverpool University Hospital into familial/hereditary pancreatic cancer click here for more information.

You can see more from the Tonight team on the ITV website, where you can see a special article with links to support and advice about pancreatic cancer.

And you can catch up with the Tonight programme, Tonight - Britain's Hidden Killer, on the ITV Hub

What are the symptoms for pancreatic cancer?

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

Symptoms of pancreatic cancer can include:

  • The whites of your eyes or your skin turn yellow, you may also have itchy skin, darker pee and paler poo than usual

  • Loss of appetite

  • 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 poo

  • 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

  • Feeling bloated

If you have another condition like irritable bowel syndrome you may get symptoms like these regularly.

You might find you get used to them. But it's important to be checked by a GP if your symptoms change, get worse, or do not feel normal for you.

For Daniel, the biggest thing he's learned is not to ignore any symptoms.