We're starting to make gains in war on pancreas cancer
Ireland has made significant progress in treating many cancer types over the last years. Figures from the National Cancer Registry show improvements in overall cancer survival rates to approximately 60pc.
Over 80pc of patients diagnosed with breast cancer are cured while the figure is over 90pc for prostate cancer. Unfortunately, pancreatic cancer is lagging well behind when it comes to outcomes. Roughly 500 patients are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in Ireland each year, however, the number of deaths is roughly similar with less than 10pc of all patients, once diagnosed, surviving for more than five years.
The reality is that pancreatic cancer is a difficult disease to diagnose and also to treat. Patients who are diagnosed at an early stage can have surgery followed by chemotherapy and be cured. However, this does not happen as often as we would like. One major reason for this is that the symptoms of pancreatic cancer are relatively non-specific - abdominal pain and weight loss are the most common - and as a result many people have advanced cancer at the time they are diagnosed. Jaundice is another frequent symptom as the tumour interferes with the drainage of bile from the liver leading to an accumulation in the blood.