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Diagnosing pancreatic cancer earlier in primary care

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Pancreatic cancer (PC) has one of the bleakest prognoses of any malignancy. In 2010, doctors diagnosed 8463 cases of PC in the UK and 7901 people died from the malignancy. Between 2005 and 2009, only 3.7 per cent of adults with the cancer in England survived for at least five years.1 According to Pancreatic Cancer Action, pancreatic cancer is the UK's fifth largest cause of cancer deaths and could surpass breast cancer to become the fourth biggest by 2030.

Yet a survey performed by Pancreatic Cancer Action found that GPs initially told half of patients with pancreatic cancer that they had 'nothing to worry about'. Nearly 40 per cent waited at least four months between first reporting symptoms and referral to a pancreatic specialist. Thirteen per cent waited at least 12 months and one in 10 waited more than 18 months. Furthermore, 40 per cent made at least four GP visits before referral. Nearly one in 10 visited their GP 10 times or more. Therefore, primary care nurses can help by remaining alert to the symptoms of this deadly disease, especially in certain at-risk groups.

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