Widow backs calls for better testing after husband dies from pancreatic cancer

Mihika Newell-Hughes spoke to ITV News Meridian's Kit Bradshaw about losing her husband to cancer

A Sussex woman who lost her husband to pancreatic cancer, says she believes he could still be alive if better testing had been available.

Jay Hughes died aged 46 in February, less than two years after he first went to his doctor with concerns about his health. 

It took several visits to the GP before he was referred for a CT scan by which time the disease had spread to his liver and was incurable. 

He is survived by his wife, Mihika Newell-Hughes, 33, and six-year-old son, Kal.

Mihika Newell-Hughes, 33, said her husband was “horrified” how many others were enduring the same thing as him.

Mrs Newell-Hughes said: "He always had acid reflux but it was getting really much worse.

"He wasn’t able to eat a lot more food and he was struggling to keep it down. 

"He’d lost about three stone in three months. We just kept going back [to his GP] until a new doctor saw him and sent him for a CT scan at the hospital. It confirmed he had pancreatic cancer."

Mrs Newell-Hughes, who lives in Hove, is backing a new national campaign to raise funds for research into the development of a diagnostic test for pancreatic cancer. 

Recalling the impact of Jay’s diagnosis, Mrs Newell-Hughes said: "Everything just stopped. All our plans, everything just became something that we didn’t even understand how to comprehend.

"How to tell our child, how to explain this to a six-year-old boy. Our whole world just crumbled, really."

  • Diana Jupp, Chief Executive, Pancreatic Cancer UK

However, the charity says it needs public support to fund the next phase of the project. 

Recent figures show 80% of people with the disease in the UK are not diagnosed until it is incurable.

The main cause of late diagnosis is pancreatic cancer's vague symptoms, according to the charity.

Chief Executive Diana Judd said: "When people come into the GP clinic to say they might have some back ache or some other vague symptoms, like weight loss or changes in their poo, the GP doesn’t have a way to distinguish between what might be IBS, or some other common ailment and something more serious."

Mihika is featured in a new national campaign to raise funds for pioneering research. Credit: Pancreatic Cancer UK

A new national survey found only 30% of GPs have sufficient access "all of the time" to the scans needed to diagnose the deadly cancer.

The poll of 1,004 doctors also found 36% had sufficient access "some of the time", while 20% said they were either "rarely" or "never" able to refer someone.

NHS England has been approached for comment.

Mihika Newell-Hughes is supporting the 'Unite-Diagnose-Save-Lives' campaign and hopes in the future an easy test will be able to improve the speed of diagnosis for others. 

She said: "If you catch it before it spreads, that makes all the difference.

"He could have had five years, he could still be here.

"I want to do this in his memory and do whatever I can to make sure this stops happening to other families."

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