Why we focus on early diagnosis?

At Pancreatic Cancer Action, we believe that early diagnosis of pancreatic cancer is possible for everyone. We continue to work towards ensuring that the public and healthcare professionals have the knowledge and tools they need to make early diagnosis a reality. 

Pancreatic Cancer Action
Patient Information Booklets

What is Pancreatic cancer and how is it diagnosed?

This booklet for patients and carers describes pancreatic cancer, its causes and symptoms. It gives detailed information on the diagnostic tests used and the stages of pancreatic cancer. It includes a section on what to ask your doctor, where to go for further information and a glossary to explain many of the terms used.

Early diagnosis of pancreatic cancer is important because if it can be diagnosed and treated at an early stage, before it has spread or grown too large, then survival rates for patients are significantly better.

Pancreatic cancer has the lowest survival rate of any of the common cancers. Currently, only around 10-20% of pancreatic cancer patients are diagnosed at an early stage and in time for potentially life-saving surgery. However, if surgery is an option, then it increases the patient’s 5-year survival from 7.3% to around 29%.

Pancreatic Cancer Action envisages a day where everyone is diagnosed in the early stages of their disease and has the best chance for a longer, better quality of life.

Why is pancreatic cancer diagnosed late? 

There are many reasons why pancreatic cancer being is diagnosed at a late stage:

There is currently no screening tool that can be used to detect cancer in people before they have symptoms (e.g like there is a mammogram test for breast cancer).
There is no simple diagnostic tool (such as a blood test) for the disease.
Pancreatic cancer often presents with vague symptoms (e.g. sore back, sore tummy) that make it difficult to diagnose. For some people, symptoms only appear at a late stage of the disease.
Public awareness of the disease and its symptoms is low. Therefore, people may not consider their symptoms to be important and may delay visiting their doctor.
Some people are unwilling or unable to go to their GPs with symptoms, for example, due to embarrassment, being unable to make an appointment, or difficulty accessing their local health services.
Health care professionals’ awareness of the disease and confidence in diagnosing it can also be low. This may cause a delay in the ordering of appropriate tests or referrals to specialists.
Patients often bounce around the system between services, causing appointment and diagnosis delays.

What is Pancreatic Cancer Action doing to increase early diagnosis? 

Early diagnosis in pancreatic cancer is not a straightforward problem and therefore, there is no simple fix or solution. Pancreatic Cancer Action is taking multiple steps to increase early diagnosis of the disease, but these must work together to be successful.  

For example, the development of a single diagnostic test will not help improve diagnosis rates if patients do not present at primary care (e.g. a GP) at an early stage of their disease.

What does PCA do:

At Pancreatic Cancer Action, we believe that early diagnosis of pancreatic cancer is possible for everyone. We continue to work towards ensuring that the public and healthcare professionals have the knowledge and tools they need to make early diagnosis a reality.

For further symptom information, please click here.

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Information Product № Published 02/10/2019
Last Updated 17/05/2022 Next Review Due 02/10/2022