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Nurse whose husband died of pancreatic cancer calls for faster diagnosis and treatment

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A staff nurse whose husband died of pancreatic cancer seven years ago, has called for the disease to be considered a “cancer emergency” as she gets ready to take on a charity challenge in his memory.

Kate Minett, who lost her husband Nigel just 10 weeks after he was first diagnosed, told Nursing Times that earlier diagnosis was needed to improve survival rates of the disease and that those who were diagnosed should be treated faster.

“The disease needs to be considered a cancer emergency and treated faster”

Kate Minett

In memory of her late husband, Ms Minett is set to embark on a fundraising hike in Peru to help raise more than £17,000.

Ms Minett, who works at Beneden Hospital in Kent, told Nursing Times that her husband only had a few “vague symptoms” before waking up one day suffering from jaundice.

“He was fortunate to receive a quick diagnosis, but the cancer was by then already stage 4, so only palliative treatment could be offered,” she said.

The staff nurse said that, to improve survival rates, “diagnosis needs to take place at an earlier stage so that potentially curative surgery becomes an option”.

She noted that research was already being funded to “discover more about how pancreatic tumours develop and whether a simple blood test can be developed to catch it much earlier”.

“There is also a need for those diagnosed to receive treatment faster,” said Ms Minett. “Presently, seven in 10 people never receive any active treatment to fight the disease.

“Current waiting time standards set by government are too slow for pancreatic cancer,” she said. “The disease needs to be considered a cancer emergency and treated faster.”

“Current waiting time standards set by Government are too slow for pancreatic cancer”

Kate Minett

Her husband Nigel, described as a “popular” GP, had been working part time at the Orchard Surgery in Langley when he became ill, having retired from Marden Medical Centre after 21 years.

Just two years ago, Ms Minett trekked across Arizona for Pancreatic Cancer UK and is now set to join a team of 18 fundraisers to hike across the Inca Trail in Peru this month.

The mother-of-four’s journey will begin in the Inca capital of Cusco, the world’s most important archaeological find, and take her through three mountain passes before reaching Machu Picchu.

In a statement on the fundraiser, Ms Minett said: “The trek is at altitude with three mountain passes, the highest at 4,400 metres, which means it will be harder than my previous trek.

She added: “We will be out of contact for four days, which I am looking forward to, but will be rather anxious, as one of my daughters is expecting her first child while I’m away, so I’m hoping it will arrive a little early!”

Ms Minett noted that she signed up for the challenge soon after she returned from Arizona, where she met an “amazing bunch of people, all of whom had suffered the loss of a loved one to pancreatic cancer”.

“It is known as a silent killer as it is usually diagnosed too late to offer sufferers anything but palliative care”

Kate Minett

The staff nurse is funding the trip herself and has raised £17, 717 so far from a number of fundraising events, including a dinner and dance at the London Beach Hotel, a garden party and bake sale at Benenden Hospital where she works on Bensan Ward.

“Pancreatic cancer is difficult to diagnose and difficult to treat,” she said. “It is known as a silent killer as it is usually diagnosed too late to offer sufferers anything but palliative care.”

Ms Minett highlighted that survival rates from pancreatic cancer have improved very little since the early 1970s, at barely 7%.

She told Nursing Times that she had recently attended 10 Downing Street to hand in a petition for Pancreatic Cancer UK’s Demand Faster Treatment campaign.

“Pancreatic Cancer UK is a charity dedicated to supporting those affected by the disease, investing in research and lobbying for greater recognition of the disease,” she noted.

The campaign is “asking for pancreatic cancer patients to be treated within 20 days of diagnosis”, said Ms Minett. “PCUK are setting the UK government and health minister an ambition to achieve this by 2024.”

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Readers' comments (1)

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