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Simple online test to calculate risk of pancreatic cancer

15 December 2011

Researchers have created an easy-to-use online calculator which may offer family GPs a powerful new tool in tackling pancreatic cancer.

Researchers have created an easy-to-use online calculator which may offer family GPs a powerful new tool in tackling pancreatic cancer.

Scientists from the University of Nottingham and ClinRisk Ltd have developed an algorithm which can cross-reference the risk factors of patients with symptoms to flag up those most likely to have pancreatic cancer. This could help doctors to save thousands of lives each year through faster diagnosis.

Due to the aggressive nature of pancreatic cancer, catching the disease in the early stages can offer a better prognosis for patients. However, with few established risk factors and no reliable diagnostic test available, it is also one of the toughest cancers for GPs to spot.

Professor Julia Hippisley-Cox who supervised the project hopes the new QCancer algorithm will aid GPs in the difficult task of identifying patients with suspected cancer earlier, which in turn could improve possible treatments and outcomes for patients.

The findings have been published in the British Journal of General Practice (BJGP) this month and used patient data from over 500 GP practices to develop the algorithm. The calculation combined symptoms such as weight loss and abdominal pain to risk factors such as chronic pancreatitis, age, smoking and diabetes. Upon testing, it was found that the 10% of patients with the highest predicted risks contained 62% of all pancreatic cancers diagnosed over the following 2 years.

The study has resulted in a simple web calculator which can be found at http://www.qcancer.org/pancreas/ Although currently designed for doctors it is publically available and may prompt patients with risk factors or symptoms to seek advice from their GP.

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