Welsh cancer equipment investment a major step forward but we still have a long way to go
The new Welsh Health Minister, Eluned Morgan recently announced a £25m investment in new equipment to help clear hospital waiting lists and get cancer waiting times down in Wales.
This investment will include money for new CT Scanners and ultrasound machines, both of which are used in diagnosing pancreatic cancer and exploring treatment options.
CT scanners can diagnose and take images of patients’ cancers faster and more accurately that older equipment and are regularly used in diagnosing pancreatic cancer. They can also help show if cancer has spread to other organs and help to determine if surgery might be a good treatment option.
Ultrasound machines are often used to diagnose suspected pancreatic cancer. Ultrasound scans use high frequency sound waves to create a picture of a pancreas. An abdominal ultrasound scan shows up blood flow and changes in your abdomen, including abnormal growths.
This investment will benefit people in Wales who have suspected pancreatic cancer and hopefully allow them to get a diagnosis and treatment much quicker.
However, this investment only tackles half of the problem. There is still a chronic lack of awareness around pancreatic cancer symptoms in Wales. 75% of the people we surveyed in Wales reported that they know “nothing” or “almost nothing” about pancreatic cancer.
63.9% of survey respondents said that indigestion is not a pancreatic cancer symptom. 59.1% said that upper abdominal pain and back pain is not a symptom and 53% didn’t think that a change in bowel habits is a symptom. All three of these are key symptoms of pancreatic cancer.
The prognosis if you receive a pancreatic cancer diagnosis in Wales is harrowing. The current 1-year survival rate for people across the whole of Wales is 23.8% – the 5-year survival rate is just 7.6%. Early diagnosis is currently the only hope of patient survival. When the cancer is diagnosed early, the pancreas can be removed which, at present, is the only cure for the disease.
This investment is a major step forward. But unless we all raise awareness of the symptoms of pancreatic cancer and get people to come forward to be tested earlier then a growing number of people will be continue to be diagnosed when it is too late for treatment.
After all, the new CT scanners and ultrasound machines will mean nothing if people are diagnosed too late to use them.
The £25m announced on 3 June 2021 is being spent across Wales as follows:
- £5.5m for Swansea Bay University Health Board towards a CT simulator, providing 3D treatment planning for cancer patients; a fluoroscopy room, providing state-of-the art X-ray imaging at Morriston Hospital and a CZT technology gamma camera upgrade
- £2.3m for a CT scanner and two diagnostic radiology rooms at Ysbyty Ystrad Fawr, in Ystrad Mynach
- £3.3m for a gamma camera and interventional radiology suite at Wrexham Maelor Hospital
- £2.1m for CT simulator replacement at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd
- £3.2m for fluoroscopy and cath lab at University Hospital of Wales, in Cardiff
- £3.1m for an upgrade of MRI and fluoroscopy room, providing X-ray imaging at the Princess of Wales Hospital in Bridgend
- £4.5m for two replacement CT scanners at Glangwilli Hospital in Carmarthenshire and Withybush Hospital in Pembrokeshire
- £1m for fluoroscopy X-ray imaging and MRI upgrade at Velindre Cancer Centre in Cardiff
- £350k for four ultrasound machines at Brecon, Newtown, Llandrindod Wells and Welshpool hospitals