THE long-term survival of patients with pancreatic cancer has hardly improved in four decades, a charity has warned.

Just three per cent of patients with the disease live for a further five years after diagnosis, Cancer Research UK said.

This is only a slight improvement on the 1970s when only two per cent of patients survived for five years or more.

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The majority of patients die within a year of diagnosis, the charity said.

Most cases of pancreatic cancer are not detected until it is too late for treatment to be effective.

Professor Andrew Biankin, who works at Cancer Research UK's ­Beatson Institute at Glasgow University, said: "Pancreatic cancer has very few symptoms at first and I see far too many patients who, out of the blue, are told they may have just months or even weeks to live.

"We've been waiting too long for new drugs to treat the disease and there are very few options available for people with advanced forms of the disease.

"It's a situation that simply has to change and we can only do that by funding more high-quality research and trials and to get treatments out of the lab as soon as possible."

Pancreatic cancer is the 10th most common cancer in the UK and every year about 8,800 people are diagnosed with it, with about 8,300 dying from it.

Over the next five years Cancer Research UK is ­planning to more than double the £6 million it spends each year on research, a spokesman said.

Charity chief executive Harpal Kumar said it was "shocking that so many patients are still losing their lives to pancreatic cancer".