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Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month – We need to demand better

Pancreatic cancer is the 5th biggest cause of cancer death in the UK, and at this rate, it is set to become the 4th biggest by 2026 as other cancers’ survival rates continue to improve

Pancreatic Cancer Awareness month aims to save millions of preventable deaths each year by raising awareness and education about the disease, pressing governments and individuals across the world to take action.

Pancreatic cancer is the 5th biggest cause of cancer death in the UK, however, it is set to become the 4th biggest by 2026 as other cancers’ survival rates continue to improve. The survival statistics for pancreatic cancer have not changed markedly in nearly 50 years. Pancreatic cancer is showing a worrying declining situation.

The latest Routes to Diagnosis data show that 44% of pancreatic cancer cases are diagnosed as an emergency presentation. Sadly, of those, only 1 in 10 will survive a year. Your chances of surviving a year are three times greater should you be referred to a specialist from primary care. Sadly, too few patients are diagnosed this way.

“The paucity of research funding is one of the reasons why pancreatic cancer continues to have such a low survival rate with little or no improvement in over 50 years”

This year a study found that the UK comes 47th out of the 56 countries surveyed for 5-year survival rates for pancreatic cancer, moreover, by 2025 deaths from pancreatic cancer are predicted to be 25% higher than breast cancer in the EU.

The statistics are devastating yet do not influence change and there is still a chronic lack of awareness of the signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer amongst members of the public, healthcare professionals, and the government.

Survival is so low because the majority of patients are diagnosed when their cancer is at a late stage when surgery (currently the only cure) is no longer an option. This is why early diagnosis is key.

Ali Stunt, an 11-year survivor of pancreatic cancer, founded the charity in 2010 to improve survival rates through early diagnosis.

Ali, who is also the Chair of World Pancreatic Cancer Day says, “Pancreatic cancer has been chronically underfunded for decades. The paucity of research funding is one of the reasons why pancreatic cancer continues to have such a low survival rate with little or no improvement in over 50 years, and the amount given (3% of overall research funding) does not reflect the burden of the disease.”

“The UK is the poor man of Europe in terms of survival stats with many western EU countries having double the survival rates than we do. On the whole, treatment options do not vary across Europe, so these differences in outcomes can probably be attributed to later diagnosis and differing access to treatments in the UK. This is something we need to urgently address and this is why Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month has such a high importance.”

Pancreatic Cancer Action is currently the only UK charity that specifically focuses on improving pancreatic cancer survival rates through early diagnosis. They do this by raising awareness of the symptoms with the public, funding early diagnosis research, providing free diagnostic tools for healthcare professionals, and providing free information for patients and families.

To find out more about Pancreatic Cancer Action and how you can make a difference, visit: www.pancreaticcanceraction.org