Cancer diagnosis 'needs to improve'
Delayed diagnosis for pancreatic cancer patients is a "serious problem", a charity has warned.
More than a third of patients in England had to visit healthcare workers on four separate occasions before receiving a diagnosis, charity Pancreatic Cancer UK said.
And 16% of sufferers had to visit their GP or hospital doctor seven times, a survey conducted by the charity found.
Meanwhile working-age pancreatic cancer patients are more likely than older sufferers to have their symptoms dismissed as "nothing serious" or diagnosed as a different condition, the figures suggest.
Forty five per cent of pancreatic cancer patients aged 16 to 54 were told their symptoms were "nothing serious" or wrongly diagnosed with another condition, instead of being referred for extra tests, the poll found.
This compares to just 23% of patients over the age of 75, according to the survey of 441 patients.
"When it comes to pancreatic cancer we are still battling a serious challenge relating to low levels of awareness and unacceptably long waits for diagnosis," said Pancreatic Cancer UK's chief executive Alex Ford.
"Urgent action is required to counter poor symptoms awareness overall and specifically to understand why younger patients may be vulnerable to delayed diagnosis, though it should be noted the disease affects people of all ages. We must also challenge the widespread misconception that pancreatic cancer is exclusively a disease of the elderly - when in fact 25% of all cases of pancreatic cancer are diagnosed in people under the age of 65.
"It is unacceptable that it remains a disease where 80% of patients are diagnosed at a point when there is no option for curative treatment. Early diagnosis is vital if we are to improve survival - and greater awareness of symptoms is vital if we are to improve early diagnosis."
Symptoms of pancreatic cancer include unexplained weight loss, yellow skin or eyes and/or itchy skin, abdominal pain and oily floating faeces.