The number of people presenting with pancreatic cancer is on the rise in the UK according to new research, and many patients are being forced to seek treatment overseas. Pancreatic Cancer is the 5th most deadly cancer, so the increase is of great concern to physicians and researchers. If the growth continues, some researchers suggest that it may overtake breast cancer by 2030.
Many patients have begun seeking tests and treatment in other countries due to a delay in diagnosis in England, where patients are sometimes only informed of the cancer when it has reached an advanced stage. Part if this may be due to hospitals in countries like Germany being less risk adverse, so able to perform surgery for pancreatic cancer at an earlier stage. In some other European countries patients can also have their insurer pay for surgery at an earlier stage, at a stage where diagnosis is not confirmed in English hospitals.
The condition kills about 8000 people every year in England, and experts are calling for an improvement in the speed of diagnosis and willingness to perform surgery for the condition at an early stage. Unlike many other cancers, the survival rates for Pancreatic cancer have not improved in the last few decades, and despite 20% of patients potentially benefiting from surgery, only 10% are being operated on.
In England, most patients see their GP between 4 and 6 times before they are referred to a hospital for more detailed examination and diagnosis. In many other EU countries, patients only need to see their GP 3-4 times before they are sent to the hospital for more conclusive tests. In England the condition is more likely to be misdiagnosed as chronic back pain or ulcers.
One way patients can eliminate the risk of pancreatic cancer at an earlier stage is to request a CT scan early on. However depending on the insurance of the patient there may be additional costs involved. An early CT scan can spot lesions on the pancreas, an early sign of pancreatic cancer.
Unfortunately, even with surgery the prognosis is not good for this kind of cancer, with only 4% of patients surviving past 5 years after surgery. One piece of good news is that there are more specialist pancreatic surgeons now, who deal with the required surgeries on a regular basis, improving survival rates gradually.
Researchers have also stated that there needs to be an improvement in the kinds of drugs made available for pancreatic cancer. While there is a great deal of research into breast cancer, pancreatic cancer has not seen as much progress.