Vanessa Feltz talks about her mother's cancer diagnosis
Seven in ten people with pancreatic cancer receive no treatment, often due to diagnosis and care delays, a charity has revealed.
Pancreatic Cancer UK is calling for an urgent overhaul of services which it says could give thousands of sufferers precious extra time with loved ones.
Its proposals include a new target for patients to receive a diagnosis within three weeks of being referred for tests, and to then start treatment within a further three weeks.
Diana Jupp, Pancreatic Cancer UK chief executive, said: “For seven in ten people with pancreatic cancer to receive no treatment at all – not even chemotherapy – is shocking.
“Those treatment rates have remained stagnant for at least a decade and people with this devastating disease deserve better.”
Just 34 percent of pancreatic cancer patients receive treatment, well below rates for breast (86 percent), bowel (74 percent) and lung (56 percent) cancers.
The charity said this was often due to long waits for a confirmed diagnosis, a lack of coordination between different healthcare teams and NHS staff shortages.
Its analysis found that improvements to diagnosis and care could double the number of people who receive treatment. This could prolong the lives of almost 5,000 patients over the next five years, estimates suggested.
The changes could help the UK climb from the position of 15th out of 16 comparable European countries – below France, Ireland and Latvia – for prostate cancer survival to fifth, the charity claimed.
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It has launched the “Don’t Write Me Off” campaign and petition, urging the Government to invest in a “faster and fairer pathway” for patients.
Ms Jupp added: “There is simply no time to wait, delays are costing people their only chance of survival. The path from diagnosis to treatment must be faster, more efficient and encompass all aspect of a person’s care.
“Nobody should ever feel written off or ‘fall through the cracks’ – regardless of whether their cancer is operable or not.
“The Improved Care Pathway represents the consensus of hundreds of health professionals and people affected by the disease who all care deeply about those diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, wherever they live, having the best possible chance of survival and as much precious time with their loved ones.
“Now we need governments to implement the pathway and provide the sustained investment needed, so the NHS can meet the unique challenges posed by the deadliest common cancer.”
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Meanwhile, the discovery of cells that drive the spread of pancreatic cancer by weakening the immune system could lead to new treatments.
These invasive and fast-moving cells have been linked to melanoma, breast, liver and prostate cancer – and now found in pancreatic cancer for the first time.
Tests in mice led by experts at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) found a treatment which blocked the action of these cells reduced the spread of cancer to the liver. The findings were published in the journal Science Advances.
Professor Victoria Sanz-Moreno, an expert in cancer cell biology at QMUL, said: “While the results would need to be replicated in humans, they are very promising in highlighting a potential way of treating the spread of one of the most aggressive and poorly survived cancers.
“More than 10,000 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the UK every year, so finding a way to improve its extremely low survival rate even by a little could save many years of human life.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Survival rates for pancreatic disease are improving but not nearly fast enough and we are determined to do more to boost detection and improve treatment for this terrible disease.
“We have opened 123 community diagnostic centres to offer quicker and more convenient checks outside of hospitals – including for pancreatic cancer – and have introduced a new standard requiring doctors to diagnose or rule out cancer within 28 days of an urgent referral.
“The NHS is treating more people for cancer and at an earlier stage than ever before and we are committed to building on this progress by improving cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment through our Major Conditions Strategy.”
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