NHS leaders in Telford and Wrekin urge public to make themselves aware of the symptoms of pancreatic cancer

A recently bereaved NHS manager is urging people in Telford and Wrekin to make themselves aware of the symptoms of one of the least known but deadly cancers following the death of her husband.

Seth Goodburn died in June this year of Pancreatic Cancer, the fifth most common cause of cancer of cancer deaths in the UK. Seth, aged 49 of Kidsgrove, Staffordshire, died just 33 days after receiving a diagnosis.

Now his wife, Lesley, is campaigning to raise awareness of the condition which is comparatively little known despite being among the 20 most common cancers.  It was also responsible for the death of actor Patrick Swayze and opera singer Pavarotti.

Lesley is an NHS Head of Communication and Engagement who works with patients across Telford and Wrekin.

She said: “Seth’s death came as an immense shock. He went from being well to being told he had just days or weeks to live. I want to help other families avoid going through that if at all possible.

“It is vital that we do everything we can raise awareness among patients and clinicians. I work in the NHS and had very little knowledge of Pancreatic Cancer. And since Seth’s death I have spoken to experienced GPs who have never diagnosed or even suspected a patient has it.

“The difficulty is that the symptoms can be so general and they are often mistaken for gallstones, IBS, or indegestion. There is very little that says to a doctor, ‘that’s what it must be’. It tends to be a case of ruling out everything else first.

“By the time Seth’s Pancreatic Cancer was diagnosed it was too advanced to be treated. That is why it is so important to raise awareness so patients and GPs can become more aware of the most common symptoms, and be particularly aware if they occur in any kind of combination.”

Symptoms can include:

  • Weight loss for no particular reason
  • Lethargy and depression
  • Indigestion
  • Back pain and jaundice (skin turning a yellowish colour) can appear in the later stages

A fuller list of symptoms can be found here.

Stirchley GP, Dr Mike Innes, Chair of Telford and Wrekin Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said: “As GPs we would really encourage people to become more aware of their own bodies and act quickly if they feel something is not right.

“One of our major challenges is that people come to us too long after they have started to become concerned. The earlier you can come for help the better the chances of getting the right diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Some conditions are not easy to diagnose, but patients should persevere if they think they are not getting the right answers.”

Dr Innes added: “People also need to become more aware that living a healthier lifestyle reduces the risk of cancer incidence in general. This includes keeping an eye on your weight, moderating how much you eat and drink, not smoking, and trying to take some exercise and getting enough sleep.”

Lesley said: “I promised Seth I would do all I could to raise awareness in his memory.”