A hard-hitting Coronation Street storyline is helping an Outwood woman to raise awareness of pancreatic cancer.
Karen Stead, 54, was diagnosed three years ago with the cancer – which the soap’s character Hayley Cropper is currently battling.
It is the fifth most common cause of cancer deaths in the UK, but one of the least researched because of a lack of funding.
Mrs Stead said: “It’s very hard to diagnose. The symptoms can be there for over a year, but it’s easy to brush them off as nothing and people often end up being diagnosed in A&E, when it’s too late.”
The former secretary had been feeling tired and was suffering with abdominal pains at night, which was dismissed as indigestion.
But then she began to turn yellow, had stomach problems and unbearable itching.
She had blood tests and a scan, before having a procedure which helped control the symptoms.
A six-week wait followed while her pancreas – which produces enzymes to break down food and hormones including insulin – settled down.
In September 2010, Mrs Stead underwent surgery to remove part of her pancreas, stomach, small intestine, bile duct and gall bladder.
Chemotherapy followed until she had to stop for medical reasons.
The mum-of-two and stepmum-of-one is still receiving treatment but is doing well.
She said: “It’s been hard for my family because they never expect mum to be poorly. I owe so much to the team at St James’s.”
Mrs Stead and her family have raised £3,000 for the Yorkshire Cancer Centre at the hospital, and she has been working with Pancreatic Cancer UK to help others.
Mrs Stead added: “If we can raise the profile and awareness it will hopefully bring more funding and save lives. It’s great that Coronation Street has picked up on this because it’s always other cancers that tend to feature.”
Visit www.pancreaticcancer.org.uk for more information.