Northern Ireland

New partnership aims to improve outcomes for people with pancreatic cancer

Pancreatic cancer survivor Tom Hawthorne from Lisburn (Nipanc/PA)
Pancreatic cancer survivor Tom Hawthorne from Lisburn (Nipanc/PA) Pancreatic cancer survivor Tom Hawthorne from Lisburn (Nipanc/PA)

A partnership has been announced between the department of health and charities to improve outcomes for people with pancreatic cancer.

The department has partnered with Pancreatic Cancer UK and local-charity Northern Ireland Pancreatic Cancer (Nipanc) to develop a new regional care pathway for patients in Northern Ireland.

Professor Mark Taylor, an expert adviser at the department of Health, said the survival rate for people with pancreatic cancer is too low.

“We need to continue to take action to ensure that pancreatic cancer is diagnosed as early as possible, and that patients receive the treatment and support that they require as early as possible,” he said.

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“Early diagnosis is important because if the cancer can be diagnosed and treated at an early stage, before it has spread or grown too large, then survival rates for patients are significantly better.”

Prof Taylor said work to implement the pathway across Northern Ireland will now be taken forward by a clinical reference group.

He said that will involve making a number of minor changes to current practice; increasing communication and awareness of the signs and symptoms of the disease and ensuring that pancreatic cancer patients across the region receive a consistent standard of care.

“While change will not happen overnight, this partnership helps us to make significant steps towards ensuring that all pancreatic cancer patients across Northern Ireland have a faster, fairer pathway throughout their diagnosis, treatment and care,” he said.

Dawn Crosby, head of nations at Pancreatic Cancer UK, said the move in Northern Ireland is a first by any UK nation and a landmark moment in the fight against this devastating disease.

“The model we have developed represents the consensus of hundreds of health professionals, patients and their loved ones from across the UK,” she said.

“Once rolled out, it will give everyone diagnosed with pancreatic cancer the very best chance of survival and as much precious time as possible with those that matter most to them.”

Pancreatic cancer survivor Tom Hawthorne from Lisburn described the partnership as “really welcome news”.

“When it comes to pancreatic cancer, time matters, early diagnosis is so important,” he said.

“I was so lucky to have such a fantastic GP.

“My advice is look after your fitness and please, please research the symptoms of pancreatic cancer.

“Be proactive. Don’t wait. Go to your doctor. It’s not going to go away. The earlier you are diagnosed, the better the prognosis.”