Login to Pancreatic Cancer UK

High numbers of pancreatic cancer patients still diagnosed via emergency route

Posted by: Policy and campaigning 10 November 2015

New data released today (Tuesday, 10th November) shows that nearly half (45 per cent) of pancreatic cancer cases in 2013 were diagnosed as a result of an emergency presentation at hospital. This is more than double the average rate of 20 per cent for all other cancer types.

The complete Routes to Diagnosis data, which covers more than 2 million patients diagnosed with cancer from 2006 to 2013, has been published today by the National Cancer Intelligence Network, which is part of Public Health England. The data shows only 10 per cent of pancreatic cancer patients diagnosed by an emergency route survive for a year or more. Pancreatic cancer has the worst survival rate of all the 21 most common cancers, with just four per cent of people living for five years or more.

Pancreatic Cancer UK says much more needs to be done to increase the number of people diagnosed via other routes and therefore improve people’s chances of living longer. Today’s statistics show that 20 per cent of patients referred via a Two Week Wait survive for a year or more, and 26 per cent of those referred in another way by their GP.

The charity is calling for a publically funded symptoms awareness campaign, as well as more training and support for GPs to better spot possible cases, which should in turn help them refer people for tests at an earlier stage.

Pancreatic Cancer UK says while the overall trend in the data showed a fall in the number of all emergency presentations between 2006 and 2013 (from 24 per cent to 20 per cent) and a fall in the number of pancreatic cancer emergency presentations (from half to 45 per cent) it is clear that action still needs to be taken.  

Alex Ford, Chief Executive at Pancreatic Cancer UK, said: “While the downward trend in the number of pancreatic cancer patients being diagnosed via an emergency route over the past few years is welcome, it is still too little progress.

“Wehope these new statistics will help focus minds and demonstrate to policy-makers the need for targeted action to improve rates of early diagnosis for pancreatic cancer and, ultimately, survival, across the UK. This data also serves as a reminder that pancreatic cancer must be made a priority, in the plans for the implementation of the new Cancer Strategy for England. In addition, we urgently need to see more investment in research into pancreatic cancer, especially into how to diagnose the disease at an earlier stage.

“November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month and we will be doing all we can to raise much needed awareness of pancreatic cancer amongst the general public, in terms of ensuring they are aware of the signs and symptoms of the disease.”

A recent survey commissioned by Pancreatic Cancer UK showed that 71 per cent of people in the UK could not name a single symptom of pancreatic cancer unprompted. A UK-wide survey of GPs also found that while most GPs could list one or two symptoms, half were not confident they could identify the signs and symptoms of possible pancreatic cancer in a patient.

For more information about pancreatic cancer, visit www.pancreaticcancer.org.uk