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Pancreatic cancer survival rates remain low

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The long-term survival rate of pancreatic cancer patients in England has not improved since the early 1970s, a study by Cancer Research UK has revealed.

Only three per cent of patients survive the illness for five years or more today, compared with two per cent four decades ago. Every year, 8800 people are diagnosed, while 8300 die from it, Cancer Research UK said.

According to the charity, the low survival rate is likely to be due to the difficulty of diagnosis. Often, cases go undiagnosed until it is too late for surgery.

Professor Andrew Biankin, of the University of Glasgow's Beatson Institute for Cancer Research, said: 'Pancreatic cancer has very few symptoms at first and I see far too many patients who, out of the blue, are told they may have just months or even weeks to live. We've been waiting too long for new drugs to treat the disease and there are very few options available for people with advanced forms of the disease.'

Pancreatic cancer outlook remains the poorest of the 21 most common forms of cancer.

A spokesman from Pancreatic Cancer UK said: 'Pancreatic cancer doesn't usually give rise to any symptoms or signs in the early stages. This is the main reason why it can be so difficult to detect and diagnose. As the cancer grows, the symptoms it causes will depend on the type of pancreatic cancer and where it is in the pancreas.

'Any symptoms people do have can be quite vague and may come and go at first. An example is abdominal pain, which may start off as occasional discomfort before becoming more painful and more frequent. The symptoms can also be a sign of other more common illnesses such as pancreatitis, gastritis, gallstones or hepatitis.'

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