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Despite treatment advances, few people with pancreatic cancer receive therapy: study

May 31, 2019

A new study shows that a staggering number of people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer fail to receive chemotherapy or radiation, treatments that could prolong their lives. Further, many do not have consultations with specialists to learn about these treatment options.

The study, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, points the finger at stigma—because pancreatic cancer is often fatal, the prevailing view is that it isn’t worth treating. Drs. Natalie Coburn and Julie Hallet, both associate scientists in the Odette Cancer Research Program at Sunnybrook Research Institute (SRI), were involved in the work.

It’s true that pancreatic cancer, the fourth most fatal form of the disease in Canada, is formidable. It’s also true, though, that new chemotherapy regimens can extend overall survival for up to one year, or longer, depending on many factors, including the stage of the cancer. At the lowest end, the median survival for someone whose advanced pancreatic cancer goes untreated is about three-and-a-half months.

Coburn and Hallet looked at the records of almost 11,000 people diagnosed with advanced pancreatic adenocarcinoma, the most common kind of pancreatic cancer, between 2005 and 2016. They zeroed in on how many people had a consultation to discuss treatment options and how many were treated.

They found that about one-third of people never saw an oncologist. Further, only about 27% of people received chemotherapy, while only about 11% received a combination of chemotherapy and radiation.

The results stress the need for people to have consultations, so that therapies can be explained and informed decisions about treatments can be made.

» Read the full story at The National Post