Report shows early diagnosis key to improving pancreatic cancer survival

In collaboration with the Press Association

Patients with pancreatic cancer in the UK appear to have lower survival rates, on average, than patients in other developed countries, according to a report by the charity Pancreatic Cancer UK.

Compared with patients in the US, Australia, Canada, and other EU countries, UK pancreatic cancer patient outcomes are below 'acceptable levels', the report said.

Every year, more than 8,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Although the survival rate has more than doubled since the 1970s, it still has one of the poorest survival rates of any common cancer.

Pancreatic Cancer UK's report, Study for Survival, claims that more than half of patients experience symptoms for four to six months, and can visit the doctor five or more times before they are diagnosed.

This suggests a need to emphasise diagnosing the disease early, the charity said.

Alex Ford, Pancreatic Cancer UK's chief executive, said: "For the first time, the Study for Survival report provides valuable insights and clearly identifies the challenges and the immediate changes which are urgently required to help increase the UK's poor survival rates and improve quality of life for those affected by pancreatic cancer."

Henry Scowcroft, Cancer Research UK's science information manager, said: "Pancreatic cancer is particularly hard to diagnose and treat, and has one of the lowest survival rates for any cancer. But that's no excuse for patients in the UK faring worse than those in other countries - we urgently need to improve the way we manage the disease in this country.

"The good news is that, over the last ten years, there's been an increase in funding for pancreatic cancer research, as funders like Cancer Research UK focus their efforts on such hard-to-treat cancers, and this will lead to better treatments in the future.

"And thanks to efforts by us and others to spot cancer earlier, we're trying to help patients and doctors be more aware of early signs of cancer, and ultimately, save lives."

Professor Sir Mike Richards, the government's National Clinical Director for Cancer and End of Life Care, welcomed the report, and said that all pancreatic cancer patients should have access to expert input from multidisciplinary teams located at specialist pancreatic cancer centres, and one-to-one support from Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNSs).

Copyright Press Association 2011