One-third of patients with pancreatic cancer do not see a medical oncologist, and even more do not receive cancer-directed treatment, found new research.
Pancreatic cancer has a high death rate and is often diagnosed in advanced stages, according to the study published in the Journal of Canadian Medical Association Journal.
"We 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," said, the author of the study, Dr Natalie Coburn.
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.
About 65% of patients had a consultation with a medical oncologist, and 38% of all patients received cancer-directed treatment. More than half of the patients who did not receive cancer-directed treatment did not have a medical oncology consult.
The study aims to raise awareness of this issue for the pancreas and other high-fatality cancers.
"We 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," said co-author Dr Julie Hallet.
"We 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," added Dr Julie
The authors also suggested that changes to health policies are necessary to ensure all patients have equal opportunities for assessment and treatment.