Judi Adams never thought that a sore back and occasional stomach pain could be signs of something much more serious – an eight-inch tumor.
Her vague symptoms were followed at the end of last year by “out of nowhere” nausea and loss of appetite.
Doctors told Mrs. Adams after a series of medical tests that there was a lump in her pancreas.
She went to the hospital to have a lump biopsy, and after the operation she woke up to find out that she had pancreatic cancer.
Part of her pancreas and stomach were removed along with the spleen.
Mrs. Adams (55) thought that her back pain was caused by the fact that she spent most of her time working in an office environment, and when she struggled, she experienced a “stitch.”
Cancer is often diagnosed late
Pancreatic cancer affects about 3,700 Australians each year.
It is the fourth most common cause of cancer death due to a combination of factors.
It is often found after it has spread and cannot be removed.
There is also a lack of effective treatment for advanced disease.
Like many others, Mrs. Adams’s vague symptoms “came out of the way.”
She said there was no indication that she had a large tumor in her pancreas.
“Many of the tests I took seemed to be obscured by the organs that surround the pancreas,” she said.
Patient inspired to help others
Ms. Adams has long volunteered to raise awareness and raise funds for breast cancer, including by organizing Pinktober – four weeks a year when sights in Brisbane and Tasmania light up in pink.
In 2018, she was named a Tasmanian local heroine for the National Australia Day Council of the Year Awards after receiving more than $ 400,000 for breast cancer research.
“I wanted to turn my experience on the outside to help others and make people aware of what the symptoms of pancreatic cancer might look like,” she said.
The study highlights early symptoms
Ms Adams said she found that the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute was conducting a study on pancreatic cancer.
The Pancreatic Cancer Pathways to Diagnosis Study, led by Rachel Neale, aims to identify the early signs and symptoms of cancer and to understand what symptoms first lead to a diagnosis.
The study involves completing a paper or online questionnaire and asks about education and lifestyle factors, as well as an assessment of how people have adapted to the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.
Participants will also be interviewed by telephone or video conference to discuss symptoms and their path to diagnosis.
Professor Neale said the Pathways study was still looking for 150 participants who had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the past six months.
“A lot of people tell us about the long and difficult process of diagnosis,” she said.
Professor Neale said that patients with pancreatic cancer would have access to better treatment and surgery if they were diagnosed earlier.
“While we can’t help people live longer, we can give them a little more time to adapt to their diagnosis and more opportunities to participate in clinical trials to find new treatments that could help people in the future,” she said.
Reducing the burden of diagnosis
Ms Bridie Thompson of the Pathways Study for Cancer Epidemiology and Project Director said there were already 40 people who shared their early signs and symptoms.
She said the diagnosis process could be stressful for patients and the study focused on reducing the burden.
“We are really interested in the time from the first onset of symptoms to seeking medical help and then making a final diagnosis,” she said.
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