Cancer

Diabetes… or the first sign of killer pancreatic cancer? How screening people with the disease could save thousands of lives

Screening newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes patients for pancreatic cancer could slash the number of deaths from the killer disease.

Experts are issuing the advice as they believe that the blood sugar condition suffered by four million Britons may be an early warning sign of the aggressive tumours, which are typically discovered too late to treat.

Research suggests that three per cent of pancreatic cancer sufferers will have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in the 18 months before their cancer diagnosis.

Survivor: Ali Stunt's cancer was caught early and could be treated, thanks to a CT scan
Survivor: Ali Stunt’s cancer was caught early and could be treated, thanks to a CT scan

Ross Carter, consultant pancreatic surgeon at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, said: ‘Type 2 diabetes is generally age- and obesity-related. But when type 2 is found in patients who do not fit the profile, it should be considered a red flag.’

One pioneering Hampshire GP is now offering CT scans – the only reliable test for pancreatic cancer – to these patients to ensure it is not the first symptom of the much more serious problem.

Dr Paul Bennett, of the Westlands Medical Centre in Portchester, examined the records of his practice’s 10,000 patients after watching an educational film three years ago produced by UK charity Pancreatic Cancer Action (PCA) highlighting the link between the disease and diabetes.

His own research suggests that as many as one in ten atypical type 2 diabetes cases – those not linked to weight gain – could be an early warning sign of the devastating cancer, which kills more than 8,800 Britons a year.

Backing this drive is PCA founder Ali Stunt, who discovered she had pancreatic cancer a year after being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, despite being a healthy size 10.

This year Ali, now 51, celebrated an astonishing ten years’ survival.

Fewer than one per cent of pancreatic cancer patients live for this long. The disease has the worst survival rate of any cancer, with 80 per cent of sufferers diagnosed too late for lifesaving treatment.

Ali said: ‘Even though it was picked up relatively early, its proximity to major blood vessels would soon have rendered the cancer inoperable.

Experts are issuing the advice as they believe that the blood sugar condition suffered by four million Britons may be an early warning sign of the aggressive tumours, which are typically discovered too late to treat
Experts are issuing the advice as they believe that the blood sugar condition suffered by four million Britons may be an early warning sign of the aggressive tumours, which are typically discovered too late to treat

‘Research has shown that pancreatic cancer patients will have visited their GP four times on average before being referred to a specialist for a…