By Anna Jewell, Director of Operations
Via the Pancreatic Cancer UK Support Line we hear about variations in treatment and care on a daily basis. Our nurses are often left frustrated that they can’t definitively say what treatment and care a patient should expect to receive. With today’s launch of the NICE guidelines on pancreatic cancer in England and Wales we will finally see this start to change.
The lack of NICE guidelines for pancreatic cancer has been a key platform of Pancreatic Cancer UK’s lobbying activity for many years and I’ve been particularly close to this issue in my capacity as a lay member of the NICE guidelines committee. I was selected based on the fact I have regular contact with a wide range of people affected by the disease and understand the impact it has had on them and their families*. So I am personally delighted to see the first clinical guidelines, solely for pancreatic cancer, come to fruition.
NICE guidelines are so important because they provide national advice and guidance to improve health and social care, through providing evidence-based recommendations and driving improvements in standards of care.
The guidelines are of course very comprehensive and we will be talking about these in more detail in the coming months. They include recommendations for patients to have access to a specialist team of healthcare professionals and provide guidance on the best way to treat operable and inoperable disease – e.g. through recommendations around surgery, stents and chemotherapy. It also makes recommendations on managing key symptoms of the disease which should help improve quality of life and reduce the impact on daily lives. This includes looking at support for the psychological impact of pancreatic cancer, giving the right pain control and managing dietary symptoms by ensuring that people receive pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy.
One particular recommendation which is set to transform care is that people who may have the disease will receive the PET-PANC scan. This will improve the diagnosis pathway, offer more information on each person’s tumour and show whether the cancer has spread. The PET-PANC scan offers a vital second type of scan if a patient’s first scan does not show enough information about a patient’s tumour. Implementing this will take time however and availability at this stage will vary from area to area.
Even though the guidelines are finally here, there is still much to do. Our focus at Pancreatic Cancer UK now will be to ensure these guidelines are implemented, from making sure patients and their families are aware of the best practice care they should be receiving through to lobbying if problems with implementation are identified.
If you have questions about how this will affect your or a loved one’s treatment then do call our Support Line on 0808 801 0707.
*Anna, as a lay member of the Committee, was involved in an individual capacity and did not represent Pancreatic Cancer UK.