Foyle MLA calls for pancreatic cancer awareness campaign

Foyle MLA and chair of the Health Committee, Maeve McLaughlin
Foyle MLA and chair of the Health Committee, Maeve McLaughlin

Sinn Féin Foyle MLA Maeve McLaughlin has called for an awareness campaign to be drawn up to make people more aware of pancreatic cancer.

Speaking on a debate in the Assembly yesterday, Ms McLaughlin warned that pancreatic cancer was “not a rare cancer”.

The Foyle Assemblywoman, who is also chair of the Northern Ireland Health Committee, said: “Whilst survival rates for most forms of cancer have been rising, five year survival rates for pancreatic cancer has remained unchanged – this is the worst survival outcome for any of the 21 most common cancers.

“In early stages, pancreatic cancer often causes no symptoms – this can make it difficult to diagnosis.

“Treatment for pancreatic cancer depends on the type, location and stage of cancer.

“Surgery is usually the only way pancreatic cancer can be completely cured. However as the condition is usually advanced by the time it is diagnosed surgery is only suitable for around 15 – 20% of people.

“Average survival for a pancreatic cancer patient is just two to six months from diagnosis, largely because by the time the disease is diagnosed it is too late for curative surgical treatment”.

Ms McLaughlin said that the Pancreatic Cancer charity have highlighted how 48% of pancreatic cancer diagnosis are made by emergency admissions.

“Even when a diagnosis is made the pancreatic cancer patient is an extremely poor one with no access to a specialist pancreatic cancer nurse – only one specialist nurse in the north.

“There should be better public awareness as well as better awareness among health professionals including GPs and clinicians.”

Ms McLaughlin added: “PHA are currently discussing a generic cancer awareness campaign- this generic campaign must include symptoms relevant to pancreatic cancer

“I ask the Minister if he will consider running a specific pancreatic cancer awareness campaign. What actions will the Minister take to boost public awareness of pancreatic cancer and its symptoms?”