Around 40% of patients with pancreatic cancer are not being prescribed medicine described as ‘life-changing’, research by Pancreatic Cancer UK has found.
A lack of knowledge around pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy means patients are not being offered it. Without it, eating can be painful, resulting in little appetite and weight loss.
‘It really seems to be awareness of needing to get these tablets to people with pancreatic cancer and awareness and understanding of the fact that they will become very malnourished and not be able to tolerate treatment if they don't get access to these tablets,’ said Anna Jewell, Director of Support, Research and Influencing at Pancreatic Cancer UK.
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The news comes as promising new research has suggested that stool tests might provide a useful way to help doctors spot early pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic cancer often does not cause symptoms in the early stages, meaning it is usually more advanced and harder to treat when it is found. As the cancer grows it may cause vague symptoms, such as indigestion, changes to bowel habit and some stomach or back pain. Some people see their GP several times before being diagnosed.
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‘Early detection and diagnosis are just as important an approach to starting new cancer cures as developing treatments,’ said Dr Helen Rippon, chief executive of Worldwide Cancer Research.
‘This research provides hope that an effective, non-invasive way to diagnose pancreatic cancer early is on the horizon.’