It was National Pancreatic Day on 15 November 2015. Pancreatic cancer is one of the hardest tumours to detect and treat.
Pancreatic surgeon Mark Taylor told the BBC recently that pancreatic cancer survival rates were low because it is a disease that tends to have few symptoms and, when these present, it is at a very late stage. Also, many of the symptoms are vague – simple heartburn, indigestion, unexplained weight loss. This can make it difficult for doctors in general to diagnose it at an early stage.
Having dealt with a very tragic pancreatic cancer medical negligence case I am fully aware of how horrific and devastating the symptoms for a person can be and how upsetting it is for family members to witness the rapid deterioration. In my legal case an 82 year old man was seriously neglected by nursing staff after being diagnosed with cancer of the head of the pancreas. He was not provided with any or any appropriate incontinence assessments and his severe pain symptoms were not addressed.
Notwithstanding serious symptoms the patient was discharged from hospital. His condition deteriorated further into what his daughter described as a “hellish state”. Her father required physical help to sit and stand up. He could not even manoeuvre himself in bed without assistance. In addition he suffered from severe incontinence and projectile vomiting. The incontinence was so bad that his daughter had to dispose of two mattresses within a period of less than two weeks. The patient should have had the benefit for a Community Nursing Package and palliative care that would have minimised his pain and ensued that he had a more dignified death.
We often see cases where patients approaching the end of their life are not provided with the appropriate palliative care that they need leading to awful consequences for the patient and their family, such as the above. The purpose of good medical care should not only be to heal patients but also to minimise the impact of symptoms of severe injury and disease and to make them comfortable. My client’s father suffered from a very rapid and traumatic deterioration of his pancreatic cancer symptoms without any pain relief. Until the final three days of his life when some support was finally received from the MacMillan Nurses, he did not have the benefit of any appropriate palliative care to help minimise his pain and suffering.
The BBC news reported on 17 November that there are exciting developments in respect of the future treatment of pancreatic cancer. It was said that the treatment could lead to a five-fold reduction in tumour size. It involves injecting tumours with oxygen micro bubbles that are coated
Surgeon Mark Taylor stated “”The potential is that we can reduce the size of these tumours by this type of targeted local therapy which would then allow resectional surgery to take place to remove the tumour”.
The new treatment will offered fresh hope to patients that survival with pancreatic cancer can be enhanced in the future and these developments are very positive.
Madeline Seibert, Partner, Medical Negligence Department, Attwaters Jameson Hill