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Pancreatic cancer is a rarer cancer and you may only see a patient with pancreatic cancer a few times over the course of a career. However, pancreatic cancer is the fifth biggest cancer killer in the UK and is expected to rise. As survival improves in other cancers, pancreatic cancer receives just 3% of research funding and has no routine screening test.
The disease is diagnosed too late for surgery in approximately 80-90% of cases and even with surgical intervention, recurrence is common. One-year survival rate is around 20% and five year is under 8%, a figure that has not significantly improved in around forty years.
The disease affects men and women equally with little variation in these figures.
Primary care plays an important role in the early diagnosis of all cancers. Being aware of your high-risk patient groups and the symptoms of the disease leads to earlier referral, less appointments before diagnosis and can save lives.
NICE guidelines state that patients with any abdominal symptoms or diabetes and weight loss should be referred for a CT (or ultrasound if CT unavailable) within 2 weeks.
Any patient aged 40 and over with jaundice should also be referred on the two weeks wait pathway.
Currently, almost half of pancreatic cancer cases are diagnosed as an emergency presentation. These cases are far more likely to be late stage presentations. Knowing the risk, signs and symptoms associated with pancreatic cancer is vital to increase GP referral and early diagnosis.
NG17 – Type 1 diabetes: diagnosis & management. Last updated August 2022.