Fast-track surgery boosts success rate for pancreatic cancer patients

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Fast-track surgery to treat pancreatic cancer increases its success rate by more than a fifth, saving the NHS £3,200 per patient, research has found.

The University Hospitals Birmingham pilot cut the average time to surgery from two months to just over two weeks.

The research published in the HPB Journal on Tuesday found the pilot treatment increased the number of patients whose surgery was successful by 22%.

Savings to the NHS of £3,200 per patient were made by cutting out the treatment for the symptom of jaundice before surgery, as well as reducing complications and hospital readmissions after surgery.

Pancreatic Cancer UK, who funded the scheme, says a UK-wide roll out could see hundreds more patients having surgery which successfully removes their tumour.

Alex Ford, the charity's chief executive, said: "These results are incredibly exciting. Surgery is the only treatment for pancreatic cancer that can save lives.

"If we can ensure that hundreds more patients have their tumour successfully removed each year, it could be a huge breakthrough in treatment."

Consultant Hepatobiliary and Pancreatic Surgeon Keith Roberts and his team worked with hospitals to speed up referrals for patients and reorganised the way surgery was carried out.

He said: "We have shown that it is possible to create a much faster path to surgery for pancreatic cancer patients within the NHS, which could have a significant impact on survival.

"We carried out surgery earlier and on more patients, avoided unpleasant and costly pre-surgery treatment, and yet there was no significant increase in complications post-surgery."

Kate Rigby, from Minsterley near Shrewsbury, was one patient fast-tracked to surgery as part of the pilot.

The 69-year-old said: "Within a week of receiving my diagnosis, I had surgery to have my tumour removed. I barely had time to worry about undergoing such an extensive operation.

"I had jaundice, but this wasn't treated prior to surgery and this hasn't caused me problems. People, including friends in the medical profession, have been astounded about how quickly I've been able to receive my treatment and how well I've recovered."

Currently just 8% of pancreatic cancer patients in the UK have surgery to successfully remove their tumour because the vast majority of patients are diagnosed at an advanced stage, when surgery is not an option.

Less than 7% of pancreatic cancer patients will live beyond five years after diagnosis in the UK.