The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on pancreatic cancer met on Wednesday November 28th to discuss progress since the 2017 inquiry report “need for speed.”
This work focused on the importance of early diagnosis in pancreatic cancer and laid out a number of actions to improve when and at what stage pancreatic cancer is diagnosed.
BBC News presenter Huw Edwards (who lost his own father to pancreatic cancer) introduced speakers across the spectrum of pancreatic cancer disciplines with a focus on patient experience, research, charities and the future of the disease.
The patient experience described by survivor, Nikki Davies and others identified areas in the pathway of treating pancreatic cancer that need to be improved as well as areas for hope.
Maggie Blanks, Founder & CEO of the Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund may have summed it up best when she said that she found reasons to be both optimistic and pessimistic about the future of the disease.
Key Points made at the meeting:
There is a growing momentum around pancreatic cancer, the community’s voice is growing louder at a time when the medical community too are pushing for increased research funding. It is important to translate this momentum into Parliamentary action, so we can do more to change the story for pancreatic cancer.
Speakers highlighted the unmet needs of pancreatic cancer. From diagnosis to treatment and beyond. The pathway for this disease needs to be fast, efficient and not leave anyone behind. Some of what was recommended in “need for speed” is starting to happen but more needs to be done.
It was recognised throughout the room that our approaches to pancreatic cancer at present are clearly not working, people are still being diagnosed too late and the survival rate is not improving. But despite this news there was an air of hope. Systemic approaches to pancreatic cancer were discussed, the future is personalised care alongside timely access to treatments and care of the whole person.
Pancreatic Cancer Actions input:
Pancreatic Cancer Action’s Founder and CEO, Ali Stunt, an eleven year survivor of pancreatic cancer, described the importance of early diagnosis. She referenced “Unfinished Business”, a report by the Health Foundation and authored by former Cancer Czar, Professor Sir Mike Richards, which states that there is more to be done in terms of early diagnosis and access to diagnostics such as scanners.
Ali also pointed out that pancreatic cancer requires outside of the box thinking to ensure that her and other survivors in the room are the norm and not a rarity.
“Need for Speed” recommendations, Ali’s comments and recommendations from the “Unfinished Business”report may be addressed in the NHS long-term plan, not yet published in its entirety but could, if implemented, be another source of hope.
What’s next for the APPG?
The prime minster has announced an aim to diagnose 75% of cancers at stage one and two, alongside rapid diagnostic centres to streamline and speed up diagnosis for patients. These aims are in line with the APPGs vision of increased early diagnosis. It was recognised that targets for pancreatic cancer will need to differ from cancers such as breast where there is an established screening programme and increased survival rate.
The APPG will focus on rational, achievable but ambitious goals for pancreatic cancer and use all the opportunities that the long-term plan may offer. Better data collection to improve patient pathways and outcomes alongside stable funding for cancer to push for research, innovation and equipment for diagnosing and treating pancreatic cancer were discussed.
The current political environment is a challenge, investment has been made but work force and scanner shortages remain an issue. Too many people still bounce around the health care system as ping pong patients and pancreatic cancer survival rates are still stuck in the past. However, there are reasons to be optimistic, momentum is growing and that all important hope is high.