Pancreatic cancer symptoms missed
Most people diagnosed with the UK's deadliest cancer experience symptoms beforehand, with 25% making five or more trips to their GP, according to a new report.
Pancreatic cancer has the poorest five-year survival rate of any cancer in the UK, with just 3% of people alive five years after diagnosis. Most people die within six months, and only 16% are alive at the one year mark.
Now a report from Pancreatic Cancer UK has found more than 50% of patients experience symptoms four to six months prior to diagnosis.
Almost 25% had symptoms for up to a year, and 25% had visited their GP five or more times before being diagnosed. A fifth (20%) of patients had visited hospital five times or more before being diagnosed.
Pancreatic cancer, which kills around 7,600 Britons a year, is difficult to identify because its symptoms can mimic other illnesses. The pancreas is located deep inside the body so early-stage tumours cannot be seen or felt, and many patients will not experience symptoms until the cancer has spread to other organs.
The most common signs of the disease are pain in the abdomen which may spread to the back, jaundice and unexplained weight loss.
However despite these difficulties, more cancer cases could be detected at an earlier stage if tools were made available to help GPs, the report said. Doctors questioned for the study also complained of the lack of information to help them diagnose pancreatic cancer and a lack of research on common signs and symptoms.
The report, Study for Survival, highlights how five-year survival rates in the UK are amongst the worst in the world. People living in other EU countries, the US, Australia and Canada have higher survival rates. In some places, such as Canada and Australia, survival rates are double, with 6% alive five years after diagnosis.
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 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."
Professor Sir Mike Richards, the Government's national cancer director, said: "Pancreatic cancer is a challenging cancer - but we need to take this information and the opportunity it presents to improve survival and quality of life for everyone. Pancreatic cancer must not be written off as a hopeless cause."