Carla Lockhart MP has called for the Government to invest greater levels of funding to support research into the causes and treatments of pancreatic cancer, and called for a greater focus on early diagnosis of this aggressive form of cancer.
Speaking in a debate in Westminster, Carla Lockhart said:
“The words pancreatic cancer strike fear into us all, as it is widely recognised to be the most deadly form of this terrible disease. We all know of people in our own lives who, when faced with that diagnosis, have fought valiantly, but ultimately have succumbed to this aggressive form of cancer. Sadly, I know of some who are no longer with us, who were diagnosed during the pandemic and so received the devastating news alone. They were not allowed to have anyone there to comfort them, offer spiritual support or bring someone with them on their treatment journey. That is cruel in the aftermath of such a cruel diagnosis.
As with all cancers, early detection of the disease and the resumption of treatment is of fundamental importance. It is when considering this aspect that we must look closely at access to GPs. Over the last two years we have seen how obtaining any appointment, even by telephone, is increasingly difficult. Face-to-face appointments are almost impossible to secure for many people. The vague symptoms that often present for those with pancreatic cancer are unlikely to trigger any form of consultation, particularly face to face. They are also most likely to lead to a patient giving up the fight to see their GP, given the barriers to consultation.
We have rightly spoken today about the awareness of symptoms and the importance of early detection. My concern is the pathway to investigation of symptoms; detection is blocked off at that first point of community healthcare. We need to focus on GP services and ensure GPs are resourced and then willing to return to pre-pandemic practices. Colleagues have rightly spoken about research and the importance of increasing funding. We have seen encouraging developments in recent years, including in the research led by Queen’s University Belfast. I join others in asking for increased funding towards treatments to help save lives.
I will finish by commending some of the charities in my own constituency and in Northern Ireland, which are so forward thinking in raising funds to support those who receive a diagnosis, as well as the families who have to live with that diagnosis. They also help to fund research. I commend NIPANC, a charity headed up by Mr Mark Taylor and supported by a family in my constituency, Mrs Susan McLaughlin and her two sons, Aaron and Adam. They lost a father and a husband, Colin. Adam was just three when Colin died very suddenly from pancreatic cancer. I want to commend Mrs Victoria Poole, who volunteers with Pancreatic Cancer UK and who also lives in my constituency. They are all strong advocates who want to see change and to see the Government stepping up to the mark with regards to pancreatic cancer research.”
Cllr Tim McClelland, Susan McLaughlin (NIPANC), Carla Lockhart MP