The researches find that the prolonging survival with treatment; one-third of patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer do not see a medical oncologist; and even more do not receive cancer-directed treatment Pancreatic cancer has a high death rate and is often diagnosed in advanced stages. Pancreatic cancer is a malignant neoplasm of the pancreas. Each year in the United States; about 42,470 individuals are diagnosed with this condition and 35,240 die from the disease.

Diagnosed in advanced stages

The prognosis is generally poor; less than 5 percent of those diagnosed are still alive five years after diagnosis. Complete remission is still extremely rare. “The data suggest that there are many missed opportunities for important discussions between patients and cancer specialists;” says Dr. Natalie Coburn, an author of the study and a surgical oncologist at Sunny brook Health Sciences Centre and the University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario.

“They have better chemotherapy drugs than in the past, but those standards of care aren’t reaching patients. Spreading the reach of the standards of care, starting with a consultation with a medical oncologist, would have a big impact.” The study looked at data on 10 881 patients with a new diagnosis of advanced pancreatic cancer in Ontario from 2005 to 2016, and examined how many people saw a medical oncologist and how many received treatment after consultation.

Advanced pancreatic cancer

About 65% of patients had a consultation with a medical oncologist, and 38% of all patients received cancer-directed treatment. More than half of patients who did not receive cancer-directed treatment did not have a medical oncology consult. By contrast, about 80% to 90% of patients with colorectal cancer see a medical oncologist and undergo treatment for the disease.

The study aims to raise awareness of this issue for pancreas and other high-fatality cancers. “They want to debunk the idea that it’s ‘not worth treating’ pancreas cancer. We want more people to access a medical oncologist so that they can have informed discussions about treatment options, symptom management and palliative care,” says coauthor Dr. Julie Hallet, a surgical oncologist at Sunny brook Health Sciences Centre and the University of Toronto.

Cancer-directed treatment

“They could achieve better results by getting more people to an oncologist and better access to best practice treatments right now than with new and often expensive experimental drugs in the future.” The authors suggest that changes to health policies are necessary to ensure all patients have equal opportunities for assessment and treatment. “They also want to raise awareness amongst policy-makers about gaps in the health care system how can we ensure people are accessing the standard of care? How can we make it easier to reach a specialist in a timely manner?,” she says.