Each November marks Pancreatic Cancer Awareness month and 16 November 2023 is the key date for people to unite, raise awareness and openly discuss this deadly disease that impacts so many people, year on year.

Around 10,500 people in the UK are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer each year and this number is sadly on the rise. Pancreatic cancer rates are projected to rise by 5% between now and 2025.

Unfortunately, due to the nature of the symptoms, this type of cancer can frequently be misdiagnosed, caught late, or missed altogether. In this blog, our Clinical Negligence Team share some useful information about pancreatic cancer and what steps you should take if you or a loved one has been misdiagnosed or received negligent cancer treatment.

If you or someone you care about has been battling back-and-forth with their GP and/or Hospital and has received a diagnosis much later than they should have, please call our experts today on 01206 574431 or email info@tsplegal.com.

What is the Pancreas and what does it do?

The pancreas is a large, pear-shaped gland that is situated behind your stomach. It can be anywhere between 6 to 10 inches long in a grown adult. The pancreas is used to help break down food and is a key part of your body’s digestion system. The pancreas also produces hormones such as insulin, gastrin, amylin, and glucagon.

Pancreatic cancer occurs when cells grow on, or inside, the gland to form a tumour or mass.

What are the Signs of Pancreatic Cancer?

As with many cancers, in the early stages there can be no symptoms or very mild symptoms. As the cancer progresses there can be a variety of warning signs or symptoms that vary between very mild to very severe. Those symptoms could be; stomach or back pain, changes to bowel movements, indigestion, loss of appetite, unexplained weight loss, sickness, nausea, fatigue, itchy skin and jaundice.

What Causes Pancreatic Cancer?

It’s not clear what causes pancreatic cancer. However, doctors have found some factors that might increase the risk of getting this type of cancer. Having long-standing diabetes can be either a risk factor or a symptom of pancreatic cancer and there is a link between genetics and family history of the disease. Those with chronic pancreatis or other issues relating to the pancreas can see their risk of developing cancer increased. Some avoidable risks include smoking, being overweight or having an unhealthy diet.

How can You Reduce the Risk of Pancreatic Cancer?

Unfortunately, many cancers are unpreventable. But to reduce your risk and improve your chances of leading a longer, healthier life in general (which can help you battle diseases), you should eat a balanced diet, avoid excessive consumption of red meat and sugar, avoid smoking and reduce your alcohol intake.

If you have a family history of pancreatic cancer or you have suffered issues with your pancreas, liver or digestive system, then it is a sensible idea to monitor your health closely, speak to your GP if you have concerns and make sure that you visit your GP promptly if you experience any of the symptoms mentioned.

How can Pancreatic Cancer be treated?

The treatment options available will depend on the stage of the cancer and the health of the patient, but this could include surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

What Should you do if you Have Symptoms?

Book an appointment with your GP as soon as possible and explain your concerns. If you have been having symptoms for a while, make a note of your symptoms and show them to your GP.

How to Support Someone with Pancreatic Cancer?

If a loved one has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, it can be difficult to know what to do or say to support them. Often, it is a good idea to simply ask them ‘how can I help you?’ it might be that they need someone to talk to, someone to attend appointments with them or to help with some practical things like shopping or housework.

Clinical Negligence and Pancreatic Cancer

Often pancreatic cancer doesn’t cause any symptoms until after it has spread to other organs, making it very difficult to diagnose early. Another roadblock for an early diagnosis is people being embarrassed or confused by the symptoms they are experiencing. Some of the mild symptoms, such as stomach aches, changes in bowel movements and fatigue, could be overlooked as poor diet or a food intolerance.

A staggering 48% of diagnoses are made after an emergency hospital admission, and often this occurs once the cancer has already spread to other parts of the body. Once the cancer has become more aggressive, or has spread, the treatment options can be limited and the prognosis can be fatal. Even when there is no negligent action, diagnosis is not always quick or straightforward, but where there is a lengthy, avoidable delay, it can rob you of the chance to make a full recovery and there may be an option to pursue a clinical negligence claim.

Making a Clinical Negligence Claim

When cancers are missed by GPs or Hospitals, are misdiagnosed as other issues or there is a delay in diagnosis, then you may have a claim.

The first step should always be to seek an opinion from a medical professional. You should also consider getting advice from a clinical negligence solicitor. They can evaluate what happened, give an honest opinion on your chances of success and advise whether you have a claim.

If it is decided that you do have a case, your solicitor will be able to guide and assist you through the claims process and help you receive the right compensation for you. They can help you collect the evidence needed to make a claim and represent you through the legal process on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis, meaning that there is no risk of loss in making a claim.

At Thompson Smith and Puxon, our team of clinical negligence solicitors have the knowledge and expertise required to competently handle a wide variety of medical negligence cases, including missed or delayed cancer diagnosis.

Please get in touch with our compassionate team of medical negligence experts on 01206 574431 or email info@tsplegal.com. We can then work together to get the justice you deserve.