Call for action on cancer with ‘dismal’ outlook

A lack of awareness of bile duct cancer “frequently” prevents patients from accessing treatment, a charity has warned.

Only one in five (20%) patients have their cancer caught early, which means they are often unable to access treatments, according to the AMMF charity.

The charity warned that prognosis for patients with cholangiocarcinoma (a liver cancer occurring within the bile ducts) is “dismal” and said that increasing rates of disease may mean it will no longer be classed as a “rare” cancer.

Half (51%) of NHS patients in England are not given any treatment after diagnosis, the charity said.

On average just 12% of patients are given surgery – the only current cure for this type of cancer, according to a study published in December last year.

AMMF is calling for more to be done to prevent the cancer from being missed, misdiagnosed and diagnosed late.

The first new treatment for the disease in 12 years was approved for use in the NHS in January.

AstraZeneca’s durvalumab, an immunotherapy which shrinks or slows the growth of tumours, was approved for use among patients with advanced cholangiocarcinoma.

AMMF said that the treatment, which is taken alongside chemotherapy, offers “enormous hope” to patients who are not considered suitable for surgery.

The charity’s chief executive, Helen Morement, said: “With widespread inconsistencies in the diagnosis and management of cholangiocarcinoma occurring across the country, and new treatments evolving all the time, it is essential that GPs and teams working on the NHS front line know how to better recognise, diagnose and treat cholangiocarcinoma.”

The charity’s new paper, Rethink Liver Cancer, states that the cancer has one of the “worst prognoses of any cancer”.

“AMMF has seen first-hand how a lack of awareness of this disease so frequently prevents patients from accessing the treatments and care they need and deserve,” the authors wrote.

According to Cancer Research UK, around 2,800 people are diagnosed with bile duct cancer each year in England.

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