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Published on 23 November 2011

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‘No improvement’ in pancreatic cancer survival

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There has been no improvement in survival rates for pancreatic cancer patients over the past 40 years, despite improvements across many other cancer types, according to research by Macmillan Cancer Support.

Pancreatic cancer remains the worst performing cancer, with a median survival rate well under one year.

Taking data published by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, an analysis of 20 cancers in the UK, including pancreatic cancer, was carried out to determine median survival rates from the early 1970’s to 2007.

Median survival is calculated as the time it takes until half of those diagnosed have died.

Six cancers now have median survival times of more than ten years and some cancers such as colon cancer and non-Hodgkins Lymphoma have seen dramatic improvements.

The low median survival for pancreatic cancer is reflected in the one and five-year survival rates for this disease, which stand at 17% and only 3% respectively in the UK.

Low one year pancreatic cancer survival rates in particular are indicative of later-stage disease at diagnosis borne out by the fact that only 10% of patients are diagnosed in time for surgery, currently the only potential for a cure.

Pancreatic cancer, although being the fifth biggest cancer killer in the UK, killing over 22 people per day, has been underfunded for decades and currently receives only 1% of total cancer research funding.

According to Pancreatic Cancer Action charity, as well as increasing the amount of investment into the disease, the focus needs to be on earlier diagnosis so more people can be diagnosed in time for surgery.

This means there has to be a greater awareness of the signs and symptoms of the disease among both the public and medical communities.

“Again we are seeing major improvements in survival for the majority of cancers in the UK which is fantastic news for patients,” said Ali Stunt, Founder and Chief Executive of Pancreatic Cancer Action.

“Sadly the same cannot be said for pancreatic cancer patients who are still facing a disease with the lowest survival rates in the UK. The fact that these have not improved in over forty years is, frankly, appalling.

“The Department of Health claimed that it is giving high priority to cancers where survival rates have not improved. Unfortunately we’re not seeing evidence of that for pancreatic cancer.

“There needs to be a greater focus on pancreatic cancer in terms of awareness, early diagnosis and funding. It’s time for change.”

Pancreatic Cancer Action



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