Pancreatic Cancer News

3 month cancer treatment times are a “death sentence” for pancreatic cancer patients

Shocking new data released this week has revealed that 1366 cancer patients in the UK are still waiting for treatment to start 104 days after they were referred with urgent suspected cancer and have since had a cancer diagnosis confirmed.

Doctor in NHS Hospital

Only 10% of pancreatic cancer patients are diagnosed in time for life-saving surgery. Waiting over 90 days for diagnosis or treatment is the difference between life and death for many pancreatic cancer patients.

This news comes as a result of NHS data shared by the Health Service Journal (HSJ). Pancreatic Cancer Action is calling on the UK government to provide urgent, life-saving aid for these cancer patients.

Pancreatic cancer is the deadliest of all the common cancers and delays in diagnosis and treatment can be fatal. When pancreatic cancer is diagnosed early enough the pancreas can be removed, which is the only cure for the disease. Only 10% of pancreatic cancer patients are diagnosed in time for life-saving surgery. The 10-year survival rate of pancreatic cancer is a harrowing 1%.

The NHS is doing their best to deal with the issues they are facing but they are in dire need of assistance. They are currently tackling a huge backlog of cases due to Covid-19 however inadequate diagnosis and treatment of pancreatic cancer is not a new issue. 

The Government’s manifesto promised to deliver 6000 more GPs – yet to date, there are 1800 fewer GPs. This has a significant, knock-on effect on the diagnostic pathway which leads to later and later diagnoses. The manifesto also promised 40 new hospitals and 50,000 new nurses. However, instead of this, the Government removed the nurse’s bursary and there are now 40,000 nurse vacancies.

During the height of the pandemic’s first peak, urgent referrals for cancer were down by 75% across the UK, equating to an estimated 2,300 missed cancer diagnoses every week. In May 2022 242,691 people were referred for urgent cancer checks – the third highest month on record and significantly higher than May 2021.

“The NHS staffing crisis is the worst it has ever been. However, we have to recognise that this problem existed before Covid-19 through the lack of adequate workforce planning by the government and failing or ignoring its own commitments and promises made to the public.

“In the UK only 10% of pancreatic cancer patients are diagnosed in time for life-saving surgery. Having to wait 104 days or even half of that time could mean that the cancer grows, spreads and becomes inoperable. By the time they reach their turn on this waiting list, it is too late.

“We need the government to act and implement robust workforce plans that cover the entire cancer pathway, invest in existing staff, and rapidly increase the amount and quality of medical equipment to ease pressures on the cancer pathway.”

-Joe Kirwin, Health Policy and Projects Manager

Pancreatic Cancer Action is the only UK pancreatic cancer charity that focuses on early diagnosis. Find out more about our vital work here.