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Call for more action on pancreatic cancer as rates of disease in NI continue to climb


By Claire McNeilly

Pancreatic cancer - the UK's fifth biggest cancer killer - is on the rise in Northern Ireland, it has emerged.

New statistics published by Pancreatic Cancer Action show that in 2015 the disease was 41% more common here than in 2010.

This is significantly higher than the UK average, which has seen incidence rates rise by 17% in the same five-year period.

In Northern Ireland 273 people were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2015 and, due to the low survival rate of just 5%, only 14 of them are likely to survive until 2020.

The UK increase is faster than predicted by Cancer Research UK.

It has estimated that more people will die from the pancreatic form of the disease than from the breast form by 2030.

This will mean that pancreatic cancer will overtake breast cancer as the fourth biggest cancer killer.

An ageing and growing population will lead to an increase in cancer cases but, for most cancer types, this will be offset by decreases in death rates due to improvements in early detection and/or treatment.

This is not the case for pancreatic cancer, however, which has one of the lowest survival rates, with fewer than 5% of patients surviving five or more years after diagnosis.

Eight out of 10 people formally diagnosed with pancreatic cancer will have it detected too late for surgery, which is the only potential for a cure, and most will die within a year.

Pancreatic cancer is the only common cancer to be increasing in both incidence and mortality rates.

Ali Stunt, CEO and founder of Pancreatic Cancer Action, a charity that exists to save lives through early diagnosis, has called for urgent action to tackle late diagnosis of the disease.

"More and more people are being diagnosed and dying from pancreatic cancer year on year - and it is a trend that, if not tackled head on, will lead to more people receiving a late diagnosis," she said.

"It is time for the spotlight to be put on the disease which, due to chronic lack of awareness and funding, has a survival rate in the single digits, with little or no improvement in nearly 50 years.

"At Pancreatic Cancer Action, we are committed to improving early diagnosis."

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