Thursday, November 16, marked World Pancreatic Cancer Day, and families of loved ones who have died from pancreatic cancer in Ireland launched an awareness campaign to mark the event.
The 5 in 6 campaign aims to spotlight one of the world’s deadliest cancers, which kills five in every six people diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas, 50% within the first year.
One man who is a strong advocate for the campaign is Ashford Castle’s Niall Rochford. His wife Stella was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2022, and he could never have imagined the sudden and devastating impact the disease would have on his family.
By the time Stella received her diagnosis, the cancer was already at an advanced stage, and she died just eight weeks later, leaving Niall and their three children to mourn the untimely loss of a beloved wife and mum.
“I want to save as many families as possible from the trauma and devastation we have experienced and that starts with awareness of this deadly disease that ruins so many lives,” said Rochford.
Rachel Duquesnois founded Pancreatic Cancer Ireland following the death of her mum, Martina Dunne to the disease in 2022.
Rachel has joined with Niall to urge greater awareness for what is regularly referred to as the silent cancer, often going undiagnosed until it can no longer be successfully treated.
Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month
November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness month, and despite their own grief, Rachel and Niall are on a mission to raise awareness of the disease so that any chance of increased early detection can lead to better outcomes for other families and their loved ones.
In comparison to other cancers, pancreatic cancer has a shockingly low survival rate.
5 in 6 campaigners Rachel and Niall agree that due to its comparatively low incidence rate, and because people are not giving it enough attention, pancreatic cancer has been left behind when it comes to investment.
“We must ensure that the screening and research so desperately needed to help improve outcomes for those diagnosed are given the same priority as they are for other, more high profile conditions,” said Rochford.
With purple the symbol of the pancreatic cancer awareness cause, Rochford thanked his industry colleagues who lend their support to the campaign, joining Ashford Castle and The Lodge at Ashford Castle by lighting up their hotels in purple to mark Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Day on November 16.
“For me and my family, the 5 in 6 campaign is the start of Stella’s legacy," said Rochford.
"The more people that know about pancreatic cancer, the better our chances of fighting it.”
5 in 6
While people may have few symptoms in the early stages of a pancreatic cancer diagnosis, Professor Aisling Barry, Chair of Radiation Oncology at University College Cork, suggests that if anyone experiences one or more of six key symptoms to consider seeking further medical care.
The six are:
Tummy pain or back pain
Digestive problems: poor appetite, indigestion, nausea
Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes) and/or itchiness
Noticeable change in bowel habits (light-coloured or floating stools)
New diagnosis of diabetes or diabetes that’s getting harder to control
Unexplained weight loss