Early scan recommended for pancreatic cancer

PATIENTS with suspected pancreatic cancer should be offered PET-CT scans to speed up diagnosis and more accurately stage the disease to determine if operable.

This is a recommendation in the first NICE guideline on the diagnosis and management of pancreatic cancer. Using PET-CT scans will mean that "more people with cancer that has spread and is inoperable will not have unnecessary surgery that cannot cure their disease".

NICE estimates that such scans would result in a 20 per cent reduction in surgery to remove the cancer and ensure that those with inoperable cancer can get earlier access to other treatments such as chemotherapy.

Professor Chris Harrison, National Clinical Director for Cancer at NHS England, said: "It is important that patients with pancreatic cancer have an accurate assessment of whether the cancer has spread before undergoing major surgery. This guidance shows how modern diagnostic techniques can bring about more personalised cancer care, tailoring the treatment to the needs of the patient."

Pancreatic cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer death in the UK. There are more than 9,500 new cases diagnosed each year. Once diagnosed, life expectancy is on average 4-6 months.

The new guidance recommends regular checks for people who have two or more close relatives, such as siblings, children or parents with pancreatic cancer or Lynch syndrome due to their inherited higher risk of the disease. NICE also recommends increased support for the psychological impact that the cancer can have on patients, including anxiety and depression.