A WOMAN whose father died at just 44 is speaking out in the hope his story will help save lives.

Sarah McEwan is urging Scots not to put off using the NHS, as she marks the first anniversary of her dad’s death from pancreatic cancer.

“If only my dad had gone to the doctor earlier, maybe they could have caught it in time,” said Sarah, 22, who is supporting Pancreatic Cancer UK’s campaign to raise awareness of the disease.

Stephen McEwan, from East Kilbride, started experiencing stomach pain in October 2018. As it worsened, he had to take time off work, but he put off going to see his GP.

Sarah said: “By mid-November, his skin had turned yellow and he was doubled up in pain, so he finally went to hospital.”

Stephen was admitted with suspected gallstones, but an endoscopy revealed a mass on his pancreas.

Glasgow Times:

The news was devastating for Sarah, who had already lost her gran and grandad to pancreatic cancer.

Sarah said: “I went outside the hospital and just sat there, staring into space. We’d been in this position with my gran and my granddad. I knew then that we were going to lose my dad and I didn’t know how to cope with that or to let that sink in.”

Around 800 people in Scotland are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer each year and more than half die within three months. The vague symptoms – which include indigestion, weight-loss and changes to bowel habits – mean that pancreatic cancer can be confused with much less serious conditions. It is often diagnosed late, after the cancer has spread, which denies many people the opportunity to have the one potentially lifesaving treatment for the disease - surgery to remove the tumour.

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Sadly, scans showed the cancer had spread to Stephen’s liver. He chose to stop chemotherapy treatment so he could make the most of the time he had left with Sarah, who had moved into his flat to care for him after his diagnosis. He died in November 2019.

“All I think about is, if only my dad had gone to the hospital that one month earlier, when he started to get the pains, we could have got the chemo started earlier,” said Sarah. “Maybe there was a chance they could have caught it in time. So, I would urge everybody, even if they think it’s nothing, just to go and get it checked because nothing could be something. I wouldn’t want anybody to take that risk the way my dad did.”

Dawn Crosby, Head of Scotland for Pancreatic Cancer UK, said: “Pancreatic cancer has not stopped because of the pandemic. Early diagnosis is vital. With pancreatic cancer there is simply no time to wait.”

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Support for pancreatic cancer patients and their loved ones is available through the helpline on 0808 801 0707 or email nurse@pancreaticcancer.org.uk