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Case study - Alex

Alex

"The possibility of identifying pancreatic cancer at an early stage, using something as straightforward as a urine test, seems to me to represent a massive leap forward in the fight against pancreatic cancer."

Cancer is a recurrent feature of my family’s medical history and I accept that I’m at greater risk than most. My father died of pancreatic cancer when he was 54. My grandmother also died of the disease, though she was in her 70s. 

My dad and I were very close. His death is something which has affected me profoundly. It's not just that I miss him, that we weren't able to have a relationship as adults or, of course, that he didn't have the chance to meet his grandchildren; it is also the traumatic circumstances of his death, and the knowledge that a similar fate may await me, my sister or, in the future, our children.  

Dad's diagnosis followed a path that will be familiar to many of those who’ve had experience of pancreatic cancer, with his symptoms initially being dismissed as relating to something minor. I don't recall every detail any more (thankfully) but I do remember that it was not until jaundice had developed that the doctors became more engaged, by which time the cancer had developed too far. After a brief glimmer of hope when one specialist thought the tumor might be operable, it became clear that dad was going to die. 

My dad was kind, intelligent and full of humour. He was a wonderful father and husband, as well as a a much-loved teacher. Watching him succumb to pancreatic cancer was hugely traumatic for the family and for his friends. He died within 10 months of diagnosis. I was 24 at the time and although years have passed, it’s still painful for me to think about what he suffered. 

Anxiety about my own health has sharpened since having children. The thought of developing pancreatic cancer while they are young is a deep concern that is with me constantly. I have seen what the disease does, both to the person affected and to their loved ones.

After dad died, I enquired about registering with the EUROPAC screening programme. I’ve had to wait a while – I was 34 when I contacted them, and was told I couldn't be screened until I'm 40.  I’m due to join the programme next April and it can’t come soon enough. My sister plans to join with me.

I am very keen to be involved in the UroPanc study. The possibility of identifying pancreatic cancer at an early stage, using something as straightforward as a urine test, seems to me to represent a massive leap forward in the fight against pancreatic cancer. I say that not just because it will help identify tumours more quickly, but because it should also allow those at higher risk to obtain reassurance on a regular basis. I am delighted that the study has been funded.

Alex, from Hertfordshire