Awareness of fifth most common cause of cancer related death in Australia is alarmingly low

One of the highest mortality rates, no screening test and few treatment options. A breakthrough in pancreatic cancer is desperately needed.
Media Release: 08 November 2016

Research released today by the Garvan Research Foundation has revealed that only 15%[1] of Australians are aware of pancreatic cancer with it barely making the top ten cancers in terms of awareness. This is an alarming statistic given it is the fifth most common cause of cancer related deaths in Australia[2].

The pancreatic cancer five-year survival rate of 6.8%[3] has not improved for thirty years. Yet only 5% of Australians rank pancreatic cancer as their number one choice for more research investment, highlighting the dire need for greater awareness of the disease.

Professor David Thomas, Head Garvan’s Cancer Research Division says, “Garvan’s inaugural Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Index confirms what we have known on the research front for years – that pancreatic cancer is not ranked in the minds of Australians as a cancer that needs to be prioritised for research.”

He continues, “Although Garvan’s pancreatic cancer research teams now have unparalleled technological ability to undertake whole genome sequencing on pancreatic tumours, a greater consumer awareness is needed to raise the investment needed for the research teams to leverage its full potential.”

The Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Index found that while 96% of Australians can correctly name one function of the pancreas, alarmingly 83% of people are uncertain of its exact function.

People have a vague knowledge that the pancreas is involved in internal functions relating to digestion. 70% wrongly believe it helps the liver work better; 62% think it helps the kidneys work better; 35% believe it helps the heart work better and 31% believe it helps brain function[4].

In fact, the pancreas secretes enzymes that aid digestion, and hormones that help regulate the metabolism of sugars.

Similarly, although 95% were able to recognise at least one symptom of pancreatic cancer, 77% of Australians had a mistaken view of signs and symptoms with many wrongly identifying – increased thirst (60%); trouble standing / sitting down (47%); difficulty swallowing (34%) and blurred vision (32%)[5].

Correct signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer such as upper abdominal pain, jaundice, loss of appetite, weight loss, depression, or blood clots may not appear until the pancreatic cancer is quite advanced and complete surgical removal is not possible. 

Dr Paul Timpson, Head of Garvan’s Invasion and Metastasis Laboratory, comments, “In a recent study of more than 450 pancreatic cancer genomes, we found that pancreatic cancer is in fact four distinct diseases, each of which respond differently to treatment. 

“This breakthrough is potentially transformative. As we begin to understand more and more about an individual’s disease, there is the potential to tailor specific drugs and treatments to patients on an individual level. However, although our knowledge has increased significantly, pancreatic cancer remains a deadly disease.  With one of the highest mortality rates of any cancer, no screening test and few treatment options available, breakthroughs in pancreatic cancer are desperately needed.”

To help drive awareness this month add a Twibbon to change your social media profile and help raise pancreatic cancer awareness #PancreaticCancer. Visitors to the Twibbon page will also have the opportunity to donate to pancreatic cancer research.

 Add a Twibbon to your social media nowhttps://twibbon.com/Support/pancreatic-cancer-awareness-82

Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Index main findings;

Top 10 cancers in terms of awareness

  1. Breast cancer (66%)
  2. Lung cancer (52%)
  3. Skin cancer (43%)
  4. Bowel cancer (38%)
  5. Prostate cancer (33%)
  6. Brain cancer (30%)
  7. Liver cancer (21%)
  8. Throat cancer (16%)
  9. Ovarian cancer (15%)
  10. Pancreatic cancer (15% - only 8% awareness amongst millennials aged 18-34 yrs)

Top three cancers ranked in preference for more research

  1. Breast cancer (40%)
  2. Brain cancer (37%)
  3. Bowel cancer (34%)

The Galaxy research was conducted online between 13-15 July 2016 to a sample size of 1,006 Australians nationally, aged 18 years and older.

ENDS

About the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and Garvan Research Foundation please visit – www.garvan.org.au

Garvan is a member of the Pancreatic Cancer Alliance, a unique collaboration of organisations and individuals committed to raising awareness of pancreatic cancer in Australia.

Issued by QUAY Communications on behalf of Garvan Research Foundation

For more information and to arrange an interview with pancreatic cancer researchers Professor David Thomas or Dr Paul Timpson, Garvan Institute of Medical Research or to discuss a case study please call;

  • Quay Communications, Emma Norgrove, M: 0499 688 001, T: 02 9386 9161
  • Quay Communications, Cheryl Pettinau, M: 0424 157 714, T: 02 9386 9161

[1] Galaxy Research, Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Index, July 2016

[2] AIHW Cancer in Australia, 2014 - http://www.aihw.gov.au/publication-detail/?id=60129550047 (accessed 20 Oct, 2015)

[3] AIHW Pancreatic cancer, 2016 (http://www.aihw.gov.au/cancer/pancreatic/)

[4] Galaxy Research, Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Index, July 2016

[5] Galaxy Research, Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Index, July 2016

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