Facing up to pancreatic cancer

With Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month approaching, there are plenty of opportunities for pharmacy teams to get involved, educate their communities and make a difference.

Supporting the health of the local community is the mainstay of community pharmacy, but for Bedminster Pharmacy in Bristol, taking this to the next level is something of a passion project.

Whether it is encouraging healthy lifestyles, recruiting for flu vaccinations or raising awareness of antimicrobial resistance, the pharmacy team is full of ideas about how to get their messages across and make a difference.

Led by pharmacist Ade Williams, the team is always on the look-out for interesting ways to boost their awareness-raising activities, a key example being a chance meeting with Pancreatic Cancer Action (PCA) at last year’s Pharmacy Show.

“One of the things that struck me was that here was a charity that was championing a particular clinical area [and] had identified that community pharmacy had a key role to play,” Ade says.

“Also the story about Ali Stunt [the PCA’s founder and chief executive] is actually quite inspiring as well because you see something that is such a personal tragedy and her turning that into an opportunity to make a difference, he says. “That is something that really got myself and the team thinking – this is something we wanted to get involved with.”

Lack of knowledge

Survival rates for pancreatic cancer are the lowest of all common cancers and early diagnosis is crucial. However, a recent PCA survey has suggested that 95 per cent of people have little or no knowledge of the symptoms of pancreatic cancer. This means that often diagnosis comes too late for successful treatment and less than 7 per cent of those diagnosed survive beyond five years.

In addition, new research shows that by 2026 pancreatic cancer will become one of the UK’s top four cancer killers (it is currently number five) and by 2025, deaths from pancreatic cancer are predicted to be 25 per cent higher than breast cancer in the EU.

Turning it purple

These statistics certainly struck a chord with Ade and his team, who were inspired to take part in PCA’s Turn It Purple campaign last November and had three objectives for the day.

The first was to raise awareness about the condition among customers, which meant that everyone collecting prescriptions on the day, including carers, received information on what to look out for, such as mid-back pain, fatty stools and indigestion not relieved by medication.

The messages were not just confined to those visiting the pharmacy. Recognising that housebound patients should be informed too, the pharmacy’s delivery driver Shirley Jamieson – who won the TM Pharmacy Champion category at this year’s Recognition of Excellence Awards – took it upon herself to do just that.

The second objective was to make the campaign as impactful as possible and this meant making use of the PCA resource pack, which contained all things purple, from balloons and banners to t-shirts and donation tins, and decorating the pharmacy’s healthy living zones and counter area. Ade also sported a fetching purple wig, which, even months later, is a source of amusement for the staff. The Bedminster Pharmacy team: proud winners of the first Turn It Purple pharmacy award!

Thirdly, they wanted to promote the message that the pharmacy team is there to offer information, support and a listening ear for anyone who has symptoms they are concerned about. “I think we have the resources, the knowledge, the people and the contacts as well,” says Ade. “I think for us, not to be involved in a very proactive, front-line way with our role would be diminishing that.”

Ade explains that their involvement in the Turn It Purple campaign has certainly triggered lots of conversations in the community. Something as simple as a customer saying to a friend that their pharmacist was wearing a purple wig when they went in to collect their prescription is enough to spark interest and discussion, which the team think is a hugely positive result.

Rewarding hard work

As a result of pharmacies across the UK getting involved in the PCA’s Turn It Purple campaign last year, the charity has launched an award for pharmacy teams – the Turn It Purple Pharmacy of the Year Award. Bedminster Pharmacy was awarded the inaugural award, which came as a very pleasant surprise to the team.

“Last year Bedminster Pharmacy went above and beyond to raise awareness of pancreatic cancer within their local pharmacy in Bristol and the wider community; the award was extremely well deserved,” says Lu Constable, PCA’s marketing and communications manager.

Ade is keen to encourage other pharmacies to enter this year and get the whole team involved in order to increase the visibility of pancreatic cancer messages.

“We feel what we do is just a small example of what should be happening across the country and we hope it is going to get people really excited as well,” he says. “This is our opportunity to show that we can do this and do it very well.”

Planning mode

Ade and his team are already thinking up ideas to make sure their activities are even bigger and better than last year. They have already identified an area they can develop. “We’re thinking about non-native English speakers,” says Ade. “There is a whole pocket of people who the message is not getting across to, so we’re challenging ourselves in terms of how we reach out to them.”

Between them the Bedminster Pharmacy team speak around six languages, from Polish and Malay to various Chinese dialects, so there’s plenty of scope to put their skills to good use and spread information further around their community.


The charity has launched its Turn It Purple Pharmacy of the Year Award

Onto a winner...

Pancreatic Cancer Action’s top tips for entering the Turn It Purple Pharmacy of the Year Award are:
• Be creative with turning the pharmacy purple
• Use social media to let the charity and your community know what you are up to
• Take photos to go alongside your award entry
• Involve everyone – this is not just for pharmacists but the whole team, patients and the community at large
• Do some fundraising to really go above and beyond
• Complete the PCA module at tmmagazine.co.uk/pancreatic-cancer

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