Urgent action is needed to find out why pancreatic cancer patients may not always have access to the same high-quality care, MPs have said.
A new report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Pancreatic Cancer calls for a national plan to help diagnose and treat people with the killer disease.
Survival rates for pancreatic cancer are very low, with only around 5% of patients living for at least five years after diagnosis,
Only 10% to 20% of patients are suitable for surgery and most people (around 80%) die within the first year.
Symptoms can be vague but include pain in the stomach area, weight loss and jaundice.
The report said NHS treatment for pancreatic cancer is not patient-centred, well co-ordinated or efficient.
MPs said there is a mistaken belief that pancreatic cancer is a rare cancer, affecting small numbers of mostly elderly, male patients.
Its 12 recommendations include a call to increase awareness of the symptoms of pancreatic cancer and a review of the services and tests available to GPs.
A full audit of treatment should also be carried out to understand why patients do not always have access to the same high-quality care.
Tory MP, Eric Ollerenshaw, whose partner died from pancreatic cancer, is chair of the inquiry.
He said: “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 10th 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 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.”
Alex Ford, chief executive of Pancreatic Cancer UK, said: “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.”
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