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There's been no shortage of coverage for the online petition against roads pricing, which has gathered more than a million signatures. Downing Street has pledged to take it seriously too, underlining the power of numbers. But Ros Dodd reckons there's a worthier cause for your click…

Regular Stirrer readers may remember two articles I wrote late last year about the death of Matt Rea, the long-standing partner of my great friend Lisa Piddington (read the last one here).

Matt died on October 27 of pancreatic cancer at the terribly young age of 40. He and Lisa had two young children and his death has devastated his family.

Subsequently, Lisa has done a lot of research into pancreatic cancer - one of the nastiest and most insidious types of the disease - and this week she came across an online petition urging the Government to put more funding into pancreatic cancer research, (petition now closed)

Government answer to the petition is now here

Lisa is keen for as many people as possible to sign up to this petition in order to highlight the seemingly woeful attitude towards and response to a deadly disease by the medical profession.

She wanted to write this article herself, but found the process too traumatic, so I am writing it on her behalf.

When Matt died - after an entire summer of doctors telling him he probably had no more than a stomach ulcer - Lisa was told pancreatic cancer was extremely rare in a man of Matt's age who wasn't a smoker.

Through a website for young widows, she has come to realise that pancreatic cancer is not in fact ‘extremely rare': she has been contacted by many bereaved women whose husbands and partners died of the disease. They, too, had been told how ‘extremely rare' it was.

The facts, such as they are, do not support this somewhat maverick claim: pancreatic cancer is the 10th most prevalent cancer and one of the biggest killers. Just two per cent of sufferers live for more than five years, with the majority dying within a year of diagnosis. Matt died within three days.

One of the biggest problems with pancreatic cancer is that it is difficult to spot (the pancreas is ‘hidden' behind the stomach) and by the time it's been diagnosed, it's usually too late to do anything about it.

However, what is particularly disturbing in view of the positive strides that have been made in the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer, for example, is that the survival rates for pancreatic cancer are the same now as they were 40 years ago.

This, surely, shouldn't be the case when you consider the enormous amounts of money and expertise that have been ploughed into cancer research generally.

There are two reasons why pancreatic cancer hasn't had the publicity it deserves: firstly, it isn't a ‘sexy' cancer and, secondly, its low survival rates make it difficult to champion.

Yet champion it we must if there is any hope of getting more government-funded research into the disease and getting GPs to think a little more creatively when faced with an erstwhile healthy young man who can barely eat.

So, on behalf of Lisa and her family, please sign this petition. It won't bring Matt back, but it might help to save someone else's beloved partner and father.


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