9 in 10 pancreatic cancer patients diagnosed in A&E will die within a year

ambulance, emergency presentation, late diagnosis of pancreatic cancerPatients are being diagnosed too late in A&E

The latest figures for the Routes to Diagnosis show that nine in ten patients who are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer as an emergency presentation, will sadly die within a year, and only four in ten will survive more than one month.

The numbers of men and women diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, in Accident and Emergency (A&E), is double the number of people diagnosed with all types of cancer.

44% of men and women diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2015, were diagnosed in A&E.

The figures also show that the number of people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, in primary care, has increased from 36% in 2010 to 41% since 2015 – that’s almost 1000 more people being diagnosed early!

Where is the data from?

“Routes to Diagnosis uses routinely collected data sources to work backwards through a patient pathway to examine the sequence of events that led to a cancer diagnosis.”     Public Health England 

We analysed the routes to diagnosis data from 8320 men and women diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in England between 2006-2015.

An image of a graph showing the routes to diagnosis of pancreatic cancer and survival rates by year in 2015The majority of these patients, over 3,600 did not know they had pancreatic cancer until they arrived at Accident and Emergency, by which time the cancer was so advanced that only 400 people survived longer than a year.

For those patients diagnosed via primary care routes, one-year survival was significantly longer.

“It is completely unacceptable that almost half of men and women diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in England are diagnosed in A & E,” says Ali Stunt, founder and CEO of Pancreatic Cancer Action.  “When cancer is diagnosed as an emergency presentation, it is more likely to be advanced, which means it has already spread to other parts of the body. These figures show much more needs to be done to give patients the best chance of surviving their disease.

“While we understand that pancreatic cancer can be difficult to diagnose because it can share symptoms with diseases other than cancer, there is a chronic lack of awareness about what the symptoms actually are,” continues Ali.  “The most common symptom reported for pancreatic cancer is abdominal pain[ii], which is usually associated with a number of other conditions. At first, patients and healthcare professionals may dismiss these symptoms as ‘nothing to worry about’ which is why, when the pain becomes excruciating, patients end up presenting at A&E.

“It’s vital that patients take any worsening symptoms seriously and healthcare professionals are clear about the referral guidelines associated with pancreatic cancer.”

“In order for us to improve early diagnosis and survival rates, charities, the public, the medical community and government need to unite to ensure we give patients the best chance of surviving pancreatic cancer, which is by ensuring that they are diagnosed in time for surgery, currently the only potential we have for a cure,” claims Ali.

We are writing a letter to the Health Minister, Jeremy Hunt, to ask this issue to be addressed as a matter of urgency. you can help too, click here to find out how