Not the brightest of topics I know, but the subject matter is important. And just how important it is was made quite clear yesterday.
For the last two months I have been working with a Professor of Gastroenterology from a University in the North West of England (this is different from work we are doing with another Gastroenterologist from another University in England). We, that is the Professor and the society, are working on developing a protocol to ensure that all patients who are diagnosed with Pernicious Anaemia are routinely tested for early signs of stomach cancer or bowel cancer by having an Endoscopy (sometimes known as a Gastroscopy) which involves a camera being inserted via your throat, and a Colonoscopy (that’s the one that goes up your bottom). We have already discovered that in some parts of England (we don’t have data for the other parts of the UK) patients are four times more likely to have the two procedures than in other parts. It has been known for many years (and probably forgotten) that patients who have full blown Pernicious Anaemia have a greater risk of developing stomach cancer than non-patients. I’ve tried to find out just how likely it is that patients with Pernicious Anaemia will develop stomach cancer and/or bowel cancer but figures vary widely and are likely to be unreliable because of the difficulty in diagnosing Pernicious Anaemia accurately. Let’s just say that doctors agree that patients with Pernicious Anaemia stand a greater chance of developing stomach cancer than non-patients.
Yesterday I took a telephone number from the wife of one of our member who has been a staunch supporter of the society for many years.
Jeff (not his real name) was one of the first members of the society and I remember him asking for help when he was forced to retire from his work because of his ongoing symptoms. He attended most of the society’s get-togethers and conferences.
“Jeff was diagnosed with stomach cancer in late October” Jeff’s wife told me. I told her how I was not only sorry for her loss but also surprised.
“He was never offered the stomach camera on diagnosis even though the consultant who he saw when he was diagnosed with the cancer said that he should have” she said.
“Anyway, the reason I am calling is to let you know that before he died, Jeff wanted no flowers at his funeral and that all donations should be made to the Pernicious Anaemia Society” she went on. “You are all doing such a great job in raising awareness of this awful illness”.