Lady Barbara Judge produced a video to increase awareness of pancreatic cancer
Lady Barbara Judge:
I’m about to die. I am probably going to die within months, not years.
I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in November 2018 and it was a complete shock, total shock.
About two years before I went to my GP said I was having stomach aches and losing quite a lot of weight and I wasn’t trying. The GP felt around my stomach and said “Oh, it’s not a problem. I’m sure it’s just gas. Just go home, you’ll be fine”.
About 3 or 4 months after that I was in Vancouver and I felt, as I was sleeping, a lump. I was quite frightened, and I went to the internet, like anybody else would, and wrote “Lump + Stomach” and it said: “Stomach cancer, you’ll have about 5 years to live”.
I called the doctor, I didn’t ask any questions, I just said I wanted to get a scan. When the scan was read, it said: “You have an inflamed gall bladder” and that I needed to have it out. So I had it out, the operation went find except the surgeon came back in the morning and said: “Well, the gall bladder is out, but we have found something very serious: metastasised cancer cells”.
There was nothing they could do. It was too late. All they could do at that point was give me chemotherapy and try to prolong my life as long as they could. But there was no cure. The only thing that there is now for pancreatic cancer is an operation, but you can only have this operation when the cancer is a tumour inside the pancreas. Once the cancer is metastasised, the game is over.
I was angry, angry because when I learned about the symptoms, I had actually mentioned these stomach aches twice and also the weight loss. The GP didn’t say: “Oh, it might be pancreatic cancer, let’s go do the scans”. Because it was a come and go thing, it never rose to the level, in my consciousness, to go further than the GP. It just didn’t, and now I’m in my third round of chemotherapy and we don’t know whether that will last. There isn’t anything after that, I’m told.
The public isn’t aware of this. They don’t really understand. They understand these other kinds of cancer: breast cancer, ovarian cancer, prostate cancer… which in fact, in terms of death rate, they all are going down every year, whereas pancreatic cancer, its death rate is going up, because nobody invests in it. Only 2% of the money spent in cancer research in this country (only 2%!!) is spent on pancreatic cancer, and it’s been going down for years, not up.
Dr Henrik-Tobias Arkenau (Medical Director, Sarah Cannon Research Institute UK)
Pancreatic cancer is serious because it progresses very quickly so from early diagnosis from metastasised disease it is often measured in weeks and months. Once it is metastasised, it’s effectively incurable.
Between the severity of this cancer, its mortality rate and the lack of funding, compared for example with breast cancer, where funding is big and mortality rate is lower, pancreatic cancer specifically falls between the cracks.
Dr Andrew Millar (Consultant Gastroenterologist & Hepatologist, North Middlesex University Hospital)
I think funding is needed in several areas. The first is in identifying tests that can be done and diagnostic pathways that can be introduced that will improve that early diagnosis, and we need surveillance to identify those patients that are at the highest risk. Then, of course, at the other end of the spectrum, once those patients are diagnosed, we need to treat them.
Lady Barbara Judge:
I want to help the people who unfortunately have been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I would like them not to die like me because nobody noticed it. I would like them to think about it if they get a stomach ache and lose weight but I would like the doctors to acknowledge that those symptoms can translate into pancreatic cancer, and take action now rather than wait until you are in the emergency room.
I have been trying to help women my whole life, I’ve been trying to clear the path for them so that they could move up in an organisation, or start their own business, or have a job if they want to. I have been trying to help them, but now I’m trying to help people like me, who are sick, and don’t even know it.
My mother, who was a Dean in a college until she was 87 years old, taught women to work. She gave me great advice, she was supporting me and helping me when I was down to get back on the horse. Everything always changes, things will be bad today, but they will get better tomorrow… She always said to me: “When you die, the only way to have real peace is for the world to have been a better place because you were there”.
So today, if I think about my mother, and hoping that the world is a better place because I was here for a short period of time, I hope that the contribution that I might be able to leave is to raise awareness as well as funds for this terrible disease which afflicts people, old, young, men and women… It’s a killer that strikes quietly and silently and you don’t know about it until it’s too late.
Pancreatic cancer is the fifth biggest cancer killer in the UK. It is responsible for 5.2% of all cancer deaths.
Only 6.9% of patients survive for more than 5 years. This figure has remained unchanged for 40 years.
Stage IV pancreatic cancer has a five-year survival rate of just 1%. This is the lowest survival rate of all common cancers.
48% of pancreatic cancer diagnoses are made by emergency admission. Patients often visit their GP three times or more before being referred to hospital.
An estimated 9,200 people in the UK die from pancreatic cancer every year. That’s 25 people, every day.
£3,539.53 per patient is spent on breast cancer research annually. For pancreatic cancer this is just £618.54. Overall, it receives less than 2% of cancer research funding in the UK.
It is estimated that 20% of UK patients will be diagnosed at a stage when they are eligible for surgery. Less than 10% of these are offered surgery.
Lady Barbara Judge has made significant contributions to the financial services and nuclear sector. In recognition of her leadership in these sectors, she was awarded a CBE in 2010. She has received international recognition for her initiatives supporting women in business.
Lady Barbara Judge wants to stop people dying from pancreatic cancer. By sharing her story she hopes to raise awareness and funding for medical research.
If you have been affected by this film, please contact the Pancreatic Cancer UK support line on 0808 801 0707.
To support vital research into the disease please donate at www.pancreaticcancer.org.uk/savelives
Lady Barbara’s son Lloyd set up a charitable drive in her name with all donations going to Pancreatic Cancer UK.
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