WHEN Fiona Bairner began feeling unwell she thought the decline in her health was down to the stress of taking on a new job as principal teacher at her local secondary school.

But in January last year she was diagnosed with late stage pancreatic cancer and died less than two weeks later, without the chance of receiving any treatment.

Now daughter Jennifer, from Stirling, is campaigning with the charity Pancreatic Cancer UK to get funding for the first ever simple test for the disease.

Ms Bairner, 32, was left heartbroken when her mum was diagnosed with the disease despite showing no obvious symptoms until then apart from exhaustion and a loss of appetite.

She said: “You think these things will never happen to you or your family. Then it does and it’s horrendous.

“She was only 60. It was particularly hard for us because we hadn’t gotten over the awful shock of finding out she had this disease and then 12 days later she wasn’t with us anymore. It was unbelievably terrible.

“My mum was diagnosed at such a late stage, she didn’t have any treatment. No chemotherapy or surgery. She died so soon after her diagnosis there wasn’t time.

“It’s just terrible that nothing can be done sooner to help people with pancreatic cancer. Why isn’t there a simple test for the disease to try and catch it earlier? I always wonder if it would have made a difference.”

More than 780 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in Scotland every year.

GPs who suspect the disease can refer patients for ultrasound or CT and MRI scans.

However, nearly half of all pancreatic cancer patients are currently diagnosed via an emergency, such as visiting accident and emergency departments.

Vague symptoms such as back pain, indigestion and weight-loss mean pancreatic cancer often goes undetected until after it has spread, leaving patients ineligible for the only potential cure - surgery to remove their tumour.

New polling by ComRes on behalf of Pancreatic Cancer UK revealed that just one in ten GPs say they have the tools they need to detect pancreatic cancer - the deadliest common cancer - early enough for treatment to be possible.

No screening or early detection tests exist for the disease and Jennifer is now supporting the charity’s new campaign “Unite-Diagnose-Save-Lives” to develop the first-ever simple test for pancreatic cancer by 2024.

The charity has brought together over 40 researchers from across the UK for a new research project to develop the test.

Under the umbrella of the Early Diagnosis Research Alliance, researchers will combine their expertise to enhance the sensitivity and accuracy of markers for pancreatic cancer and collect a new bank of samples from patients with vague symptoms.

The team will also test new tools in a clinical trial to consider how a dedicated diagnosis for pancreatic cancer could be implemented in the NHS.

The charity is investing an initial £750,000 in the research and is asking for the public’s support to help ensure a breakthrough in diagnosis can be made.

Diana Jupp, chief executive of Pancreatic Cancer UK, said: “For too long pancreatic cancer has been able to silently go undetected, devastating families.

“Thousands of patients a year, still reeling from hearing the word cancer, are told it’s too late, that nothing can be done for them. That has to stop.

“We have to give doctors the tools they need to detect the warning signs earlier, so they can ensure those who need it, receive treatment as soon as possible.”

Ms Jupp said previous approaches to research funding had been too small, too infrequent and too isolated to speed up the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.

She added: “We’ve united the brightest scientists from across the country to make the progress that’s been so badly needed for decades.

“We are delighted to be making our largest ever investment in early diagnosis research, but it’s an enormous challenge.

“We need the public to stand with us and support our campaign if we are to discover the diagnostic test we desperately need to save lives.”

Pancreatic Cancer UK are urging the public to pledge financial support for more research into early diagnosis at: www.UniteDiagnoseSaveLives.org.uk.

Pancreatic cancer has the lowest survival of all the 20 common cancers. Less than seven per cent of people with pancreatic cancer will survive beyond five years in the UK.

Five year survival for pancreatic cancer has improved very little since the early 1970s.

Around 10,000 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer every year in the UK and around 8,924 people die every year of the disease in the UK.

Surgery is the only treatment that can save lives, yet less than ten per cent of people with pancreatic cancer are able to have it.

Pancreatic cancer research has historically been underfunded. The disease attracts just 2.1 per cent of the UK cancer research budget according to a 2017 report.

Pancreatic Cancer UK is taking on pancreatic cancer through research, support and campaigning to transform the future for people affected.

The charity provides expert, personalised support and information via its Support Line on freephone 0808 801 0707) and through a range of publications.

The charity also funds innovative research to find the breakthroughs that will change how pancreatic cancer is treated and diagnosed and also campaign for better care and treatment.