PCA community rep wins award for diagnostic pathway

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Cancer nurse specialist, Vicki Stevenson-Hornby, has designed and implemented a rapid diagnostic pathway to help diagnose pancreatic cancer early. We are thrilled to share that the pathway has won the Cancer Nurse Category in the 2018 Nursing Times Awards!


Vicky and Ali

In the UK, approximately 10,000 people are diagnosed each year with pancreatic cancer with 24 people dying each day.

Currently, surgery is the only curative treatment for pancreatic cancer with surgery only being possible if a patient is diagnosed early before the cancer has spread.

Our community representative Vicki, a clinical nurse specialist at the Royal Albert Edward Infirmary in Wigan, designed a new rapid-access diagnostic pathway to help diagnose pancreatic cancer as early as possible. (A rapid access diagnostic pathway means speeding up the process of diagnosing a patient.)

So far, the pathway has been a success with twice as many patients diagnosed in time for surgery.

Quote "If you think you are too small to make a difference, you haven't spent a night with a mosquito... I am that mosquito and together we are absolutely making a difference!"

About the diagnostic pathway

Jaundice symtpoms- yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes, and/or very itchy skinOne of the main symptoms of pancreatic cancer is jaundice (yellowing of the skin, whites of the eyes and itchy skin). Vicki’s pathway focuses on patients that present with jaundice.

If a patient presents jaundice, they are referred by their GP to gastroenterology (digestive tract specialists), where they are seen by a consultant who will then refer them to the HPB (Hepato-biliary-pancreatic) team if necessary, this team specialises in the pancreas.

The nursing team begins with a telephone consultation with the patient where they discuss in detail the patient’s history.  This is then followed by an appointment in the ambulatory assessment where a full assessment of the patient is taken, as well as a discussion with the specialist surgical team.

Throughout the process, patients receive holistic support with emotional, social and psychological support.

The success of the pathway

The rapid access diagnostic pathway created by Vicki has been implemented since March 2017. So far, the pathway has been a success with twice as many patients diagnosed in time for surgery.

51 patients were referred to the HPB nursing team, with 31 diagnosed with a malignancy (a cancerous tumour). 28 were found to have a malignancy needing treatment from the HPB team and 40% of these patients were referred for surgery. Before the pathway was in place, only 19% of patients diagnosed were referred for surgery.

Of the 28 patients with a malignancy in the HPB department, 15 were confirmed as having pancreatic cancer and 11 patients went on to have surgery.

Following the success of the pathway, Vicki was announced as the winner of the Cancer Nursing category in the 2018 Nursing Times Awards.

Rebecca Rice,  Health Information Officer at PCA said:  “This nurse led pathway demonstrates an exciting way of thinking about pancreatic cancer diagnosis. The focus on early scanning and diagnostics led to twice as many patients being diagnosed in time for surgery as before, giving them the best possible chance of surviving. “Quote by Vicky: I dom't think I am an inspiration, I just have a dogged determination to try to make a difference and we can all do that... and to now be able to share this model of pathway on such a national level, the potenital to make more of a difference and that is absolutely what is needed."