SDLP: Durkan calls for more action on pancreatic cancer

Mark Durkan, SDLP MP for Foyle.
Mark Durkan, SDLP MP for Foyle.

SDLP Foyle MP Mark Durkan has urged greater action to bring about better awareness, earlier diagnosis and increased research for pancreatic cancer. His call comes on the back of a backbench Parliamentary debate in Westminster this week.

The debate was called after an e-petition organised by Mrs Maggie Watts – whose husband died from pancreatic cancer back in 2009 – reached the necessary 100,000 signatures to trigger a debate in Parliament.

Maggie and more than 50 pancreatic campaigners attended Parliament to listen to the debate and to meet with MPs and others to raise awareness. The debate was also attended by Julie Hesmondhalgh, whose Coronation Street character Hayley Cropper died after battling pancreatic cancer.

Pancreatic cancer is the fifth biggest cancer killer in the UK. Every day, 24 people are diagnosed with the disease and they currently face a chance of survival of less than 4%, the lowest survival rate of all 21 common cancers. Chronic late diagnosis results in many patients being diagnosed at a point when the cancer has spread to other parts of their body and when curative surgery is no longer an option. Despite being responsible for 5.2% of cancer deaths in the UK, only £5.2 million, representing just 1% of the National Cancer Research Institute’s partner organisations’ 2013 site-specific budgets, was spent on pancreatic cancer research.

Speaking after the debate, Mr Durkan said: “Pancreatic cancer is a disease that kills far too many people and for which very few treatment options are available. Much more needs to be done to improve survival outcomes.

“In addition to clinical changes within our health services, we also need to see more research into pancreatic cancer. In particular, the development of early diagnostic screening techniques – like those developed for bowel or prostate cancer. These would radically improve the chance of boosting early diagnosis of the disease. In turn this will mean patients are given the best chance of receiving curative surgery.”

Alex Ford, CEO of Pancreatic Cancer UK commented: “Sadly, mortality rates for pancreatic cancer continue to rise at the same time as the number of deaths from other types of cancer are falling. We need to see more work done to boost awareness of the disease, improve early diagnosis and treatment, and increase the amount of research into pancreatic cancer. The debate in Parliament was detailed, knowledgeable and will definitely help further the pancreatic cancer cause. We are grateful to Mark and all the other MPs who have joined our call for more action to fight pancreatic cancer.”