A parliamentary Inquiry has concluded that NHS treatment for pancreatic cancer is not patient-centered, well co-ordinated or efficient. The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Pancreatic Cancer warns that much greater focus and resource is needed in order tackle this disease, which is set to overtake breast cancer as the 4th biggest cancer killer in the UK by 2030.
Pancreatic cancer currently has the lowest survival rate of the 21 most common cancers and there has hardly been any improvement in survival rates from the disease in last forty years.
The APPG took evidence between May and September 2013 - including over 50 formal submissions from patients, their families and carers, as well as GPs, secondary health clinicians, nurses, NHS officials, professional bodies, the Department of Health and charities. The group also held five oral evidence sessions.
A new report, Time to Change the Story: a plan of action for pancreatic cancer, developed as a result of the Inquiry highlights a lack of understanding of the disease and its impact. From the evidence presented at the Inquiry, it is clear there is erroneous belief that pancreatic cancer is a rare cancer, affecting small numbers of mostly elderly, male patients.
The report, sets out twelve specific recommendations including the need to:
- raise awareness of pancreatic cancer and its symptoms
- undertake a whole-sale review of referral pathways and diagnostic services (like CT scans) that are available to GPs
- carry out a comprehensive audit of pancreatic cancer treatment in order to understand why everyone diagnosed with this disease may not have access to the same high quality care.
Eric Ollerenshaw MP, Chair of the Inquiry, comments, "We must, as a matter of urgency, challenge the misconceptions surrounding the disease, in particular the notion that pancreatic cancer is a rare disease which only affects elderly men. In fact, a third of all diagnoses of pancreatic cancer occur in people under the age of 65 and it affects men and women almost equally.
"And whilst it is only the tenth most common cancer, in terms of mortality it is currently the fifth most common cause of cancer death, and predicted to be the fourth by 2030. This report from the APPG sets out a national plan to tackle pancreatic cancer; a plan that must be adopted as soon as possible if we are to ever make progress and improve survival rates."
The Secretariat to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Pancreatic Cancer is provided by Pancreatic Cancer UK.
Ms Alex Ford, Chief Executive of Pancreatic Cancer UK, adds, "We fully support the recommendations set out in this report. We feel very strongly that in order to improve pancreatic cancer survival rates we need to get more patients diagnosed more quickly and ensure that all those with suspected pancreatic cancer get the earliest possible input from experts at specialist centres. This means, amongst other things, giving GPs quicker access to diagnostic investigations and introducing the screening of high-risk patients."
The UK does not currently have a formal screening programme for people who are at higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer and therefore a review is needed to establish whether specific patient groups known to have an increased risk should be monitored and screened.
This Inquiry was an ambitious undertaking and as such there were important areas not covered, such as, research and international comparisons relating to survival. As part of its forward work programme, the APPG will delve further into these areas.