A new community group to promote better outcomes for pancreatic cancer sufferers launched today at the Mater Hospital in Belfast.
Pancreatic cancer is a major health issue for Northern Ireland, with around 270 deaths per annum. It has one of the lowest survival rates of any cancer – rates which haven’t changed markedly in 40 years.
Pancreatic cancer is on the increase, with experts predicting that it will be the second biggest cancer killer in the US by 2030.
Local people with direct experience of the impact of pancreatic cancer have set up NIPanC, with local actor Jamie Dornan agreeing to act as its Patron. Jamie lost his mother to the cancer in 1998 when he was just 16.
Speaking at the launch of the new group at the Mater hospital, which houses the regional Pancreatic Cancer Unit, Jamie Dornan said:
“I was very pleased to accept the role of patron for this important new group. As someone who has been affected directly by this terrible disease, with the death of my mother Lorna when I was younger, I know the human tragedy of pancreatic cancer and its effect on families and our wider community.
It is a tragedy that the extremely low survival rates for pancreatic cancer have not improved significantly in 40 years. But there is much that we can do to address this.
We must improve awareness of the cancer in the community and, importantly, amongst medical professionals; we must channel more funding, both public and private, into necessary research; and we must offer better support to families affected by pancreatic cancer.
These are the goals of NIPanC and I am wholly behind this new group in taking forwards this crucial work within Northern Ireland.”
Mark Taylor, chair of NIPanC said:
“The strength of NIPanC is that it brings together individuals who have suffered from this cancer, families who have direct experience of the impact of this cancer and medical professionals dealing with this condition.
Looking forward, there are very real prospects of innovative research improving treatments and increasing the survivability of this cancer, for example, the pioneering ‘sonodynamic therapy’ research taking place at the Ulster University, which aims to make chemotherapy and radiotherapy more effective for pancreatic cancer.
But we must prioritise research, increase public awareness of its symptoms and promote early diagnosis.”
Ivan McMinn spoke movingly of his diagnosis and successful treatment through chemotherapy proving there is hope.
NIPanC’s vision is to end all deaths from Pancreatic Cancer in Northern Ireland. It aims to achieve this by:
- Increasing public understanding of Pancreatic Cancer – to explain symptoms and stress the importance of early diagnosis
- Promoting professional awareness – to ensure that Pancreatic Cancer is always picked up when it presents
- Funding Research – to deliver better treatments and ultimately to eliminate the disease
- Supporting patients with Pancreatic Cancer and their families – to help them to cope and to ensure that they never walk alone
The Pancreatic Research Fund (PCRF) is funding Professor John Callan at Ulster University to develop a sonodynamic therapy approach to treating pancreatic cancer. Prof. Callan uses microbubbles loaded with oxygen and chemotherapy drugs which are burst with harmless ultrasound when they reach the tumour, driving the drugs directly into the cancer tissue.
NIPanC will give a stronger voice to affected families in Northern Ireland. It will provide a means of pressing for necessary priority to be given to early diagnosis; encourage and support research into the development of new and innovative treatments; and provide advice and support to patients and families affected by this terrible condition.
“Not enough funding is going into this area and too many health professionals are still missing or discounting the early signs of the condition.
The strength of NIPanC is that it is grounded on members who have either suffered from this cancer (some of the very few survivors): those who have lost loved ones and have direct experience of the impact of this cancer on families: and medical/clinical professionals dealing with this condition.”
From a personal perspective, I found today’s launch both emotional and uplifting having lost my partner Olive Buckley to pancreatic cancer in September 2016.
Awareness of the symptoms of pancreatic cancer is key.
You can subscribe to the NIPanC website here.
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