six-symptoms-not-to-ignore-afPancreatic Cancer Action (PCA) is funding researchers at the University of Cambridge to identify the key symptoms associated with pancreatic cancer in order to inform consumer awareness campaigns and underpin the development of general-practice-based interventions aimed at earlier diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.

The mixed methods design involves a questionnaire-based study of patients referred to hospital for a range of potential pancreatic symptoms, and an in-depth qualitative interview study. It is expected that approximately a third of the patients in the study will be subsequently diagnosed with cancer, which will enable the researchers to compare their responses to those from patients with a non-cancer diagnosis.

Since starting this study in November 2010, a total of 945 study packs have been sent out, with 262 participants completing the questionnaire and being recruited into the study. The study team will track the pathway from first recognition of symptoms via first presentation to their GP and referral to hospital, to diagnosis.

To date, 24 study participants have been interviewed to provide further information on their understanding of their symptoms and the factors involved when deciding to make an appointment to see their doctor. These in-depth interviews are providing a rich understanding of patient interpretation of symptoms and the language used by patients to describe these symptoms.