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Delay to diagnosis and treatment in pancreatic cancer with patients, caregivers and healthcare professionals

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

Project Description

Applications are invited for a 3-year full time self-funded PhD Studentship (part time would be considered)

Patients with pancreatic cancer are commonly diagnosed with advanced disease. Many have made repeated visits to a general practitioner prior to diagnosis with niggling but non-specific signs of illness. Nearly half of patients are diagnosed on emergency admission. Around 20% of patients are diagnosed early enough for surgery in the UK, and rates of resection vary (5.1-19.6%) across regions. Delay, the period between self-detection of concerning signs and symptoms of possible disease, help-seeking, diagnosis and treatment is well reported in the cancer literature but it less clear what are the specific challenges to diagnosis experienced by those subsequently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
Historically the time from symptom awareness to treatment has been categorised as delays in appraisal, illness, behaviour, scheduling and treatment and each can impact on how rapidly patients navigate complex healthcare systems1. This model has been criticised for failing to understand the cultural context of symptom recognition and their social consequences, 2,3 and assumptions about inconsistent cancer services.

This study will explore with patients, families, carers and healthcare professionals how they make sense, appraise, time-frame and navigate access and entry to care delivery for the diagnosis and treatment for pancreatic cancer. A mixed methods approach is proposed to best explore participants’ symptom awareness and interpretation, risk constructions, time and urgency inherent in different accounts of journey to treatment. It is anticipated the design would include extraction and mapping of patients’ journeys from medical records and qualitative interviews with a range of participants. The findings from this study has potential to influence care delivery and service design for this patient population.

The successful applicant would join a growing community of clinicians, researchers, patients and carers working to improve care for people touched by pancreatic cancer - the IMPROVE PANC collaborative.

Person Specification
Applicants should hold or realistically expect to obtain at least an Upper Second Class Honours Degree. Ideally also be a healthcare professional (e.g. registered nurse) and have an interest in cancer care. They should be able to demonstrate a commitment to undertaking research using a range of methods and working co-operatively with patients, families, healthcare professionals and other stakeholders to design and deliver research that influences care delivery.

How to apply
Applications should be directed to Professor Annie Topping on .

To apply, please send:
• A Detailed CV, including your nationality and country of birth;
• Names and addresses of two referees;
• A covering letter highlighting your research experience/capabilities;
• Copies of your degree transcripts;
• Evidence of your proficiency in the English language, if applicable.

Applicants will be interviewed. This can be conducted face –to –face, by telephone or skype

Funding Notes


International students can apply but would need to secure funding


1. Andersen B L et al (1995) Delay in seeking a cancer diagnosis: delay stages and psychophysiological comparison processes British Journal of Social Psychology 34, 33-52

2. Andersen R S et al (2010) ‘Containment’ as an analytical framework for understanding patient delay: a qualitative study of cancer patients symptom interpretation process Social Science and Medicine 71, 378-385

3. Topping A, Nkosana-Nyawata I and Heyman B (2013) “I am not someone who gets skin cancer’: risk, time and malignant melanoma Health, Risk and Society 15, 6-7, 596-614

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