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Formby resident George Stacey speaks about his experience during Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month

George Stacey and partner Jill Clatworthy

Clinical Research is looking for a test to pinpoint people with Diabetes at a higher risk of Pancreatic Cancer.

Researchers are hoping to find a test that can pinpoint newly diagnosed people with diabetes who could be at risk of having pancreatic cancer – so they can be treated earlier.

More people than ever before in the UK are developing and living with diabetes, with the vast majority of them having type 2 of the condition, which is not normally linked with pancreatic cancer. However, a lesser known form of diabetes is type 3C and people who develop this are at a much higher risk of also having pancreatic cancer.

This was the case for 76-year-old George Stacey, a patient at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre who has spoken about his experience during Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month.

When George found himself drinking large amounts of water and losing weight, he thought they were signs of type 2 diabetes, which one in 10 people in the UK over the age of 40 now live with.

He had no pain or other symptoms of cancer so was not overly concerned, as type 2 diabetes can be controlled with changes to lifestyle and medication, and is not usually linked to developing pancreatic cancer. George is well aware of the symptoms of cancer as he had an unrelated form of the disease in 2009, fully recovering from prostate cancer.

George Stacey

However, due to his medical history and his declining condition, George’s partner Jill Clatworthy insisted on a blood test being carried out which showed he had an extremely high blood sugar level. He was advised to go to A&E for evaluation and stayed in hospital for five days while checks were done. After a CT scan and other tests, George was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and type 3C diabetes.

The symptoms of type 3C diabetes are similar to type 2 – thirst, tiredness, frequent urination and weight loss – and even health professionals are sometimes unable to tell the difference between the variations.

George, who lives in Formby, said: “I was drinking a lot of water – I had a thirst which would not go away. I was going to the toilet a lot and losing weight rapidly. I suspected it was diabetes but it never crossed my mind that it would be cancer.”

Jill said: “I sensed it was something other than diabetes and insisted George had a blood test. We are so happy that we did as it was this that showed that George needed further tests which discovered cancer. We were both very shocked when he was told.”

Liverpool researchers are currently trying to find an effective test that can distinguish between the two types of diabetes, so they can find those type 3C patients who are much more at risk from cancer.

Prof Dan Palmer is a Consultant Medical Oncologist at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre and a professor in the Department of Molecular and Clinical Cancer Medicine at the University of Liverpool (UoL). He is treating George and said: “Around one in 10 people diagnosed with type 3C diabetes will have pancreatic cancer, so it is incredibly important that the right type of diabetes is identified as early as possible so that any cancer can be treated more easily and more successfully.

“It is very hard to tell the two forms of diabetes apart – even health professionals find this difficult – and in the vast majority of cases it will be type 2, which gives little if no increased risk of pancreatic cancer.”

Professor Dan Palmer

Prof Palmer, is part of the UK-EDI research team – led by UoL molecular biologist Prof Eithne Costello and funded by Cancer Research UK – aiming to develop and validate this test so patients with type 3C are discovered earlier and screened for pancreatic cancer as a high-risk group.

Prof Palmer said: “Through this research we hope to develop a diagnostic test for use in individuals newly diagnosed with diabetes which will identify those most at risk of pancreatic cancer, allowing them to be screened. We already have a candidate blood test and research on this is rolling out nationally.”

After his diagnosis, George, a former hospitality worker who was in the Army for 20 years, was given chemotherapy treatment at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre to shrink the tumours in his pancreas before having surgery to remove them at Royal Liverpool University Hospital.

He said: “I think I am very fortunate that the cancer was caught at the stage it was at. I was told that if I had left it even a short time later, the outlook for me could have been far worse.

“I would definitely urge anyone who is experiencing symptoms of diabetes to get checked out properly as it could be something much more serious. Everyone needs to be aware of changes that can be signs of cancer and contact their GP surgery straight away to have them investigated.”

George has now started a further six months of chemotherapy to eradicate any remaining cancer cells. He said: “I have had extremely good treatment throughout this and the team at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre are first class. When you go there everyone has smiles on their faces and they put your mind at ease straight away. I’d like to thank all the staff there for all that they have done for me.”

“I’d also like to thank the team at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital for carrying out this life-saving procedure, which was complicated and lengthy, and for the follow up consultations.”

The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre

The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre NHS Foundation Trust is one of the UK’s leading cancer centres, serving a population of 2.4m in Cheshire & Merseyside and surrounding areas,including the Isle of Man and parts of Lancashire.

We provide highly-specialist services including pioneering chemotherapy, immunotherapy and radiotherapy. Our unique networked model includes three Clatterbridge Cancer Centres (Liverpool, Wirral and Aintree), Clatterbridge clinics in other hospitals, and our multi-award-winning Clatterbridge in the Community service treating patients at home.

Our flagship Liverpool hospital opened in June 2020 with state-of-the-art facilities including 110 individual inpatient rooms, stem cell transplant, radiology, a Teenage & Young Adult Unit, clinical therapies, and a wide range of cancer information and support.

Social media: @CCCNHS



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