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Pancreatic cancer: data, symptoms, risks

The pancreatic cancer could become the second leading cause of death from cancer worldwide by 2030 over 560 thousand cases worldwide in 2025. Truly not very reassuring prospects and a picture that is confirmed by the progressive increase in numbers also in our country: according to data from the Italian Cancer Registry Association, there were approximately 14,500 new diagnoses in Italy in 2022, an increase compared to past years, with an overall increase between men and women of 3% and a further increase expected for 2025 of 5 % associated with a decrease in the average age of patients. Pancreatic cancer is the same pathology that took Gianluca Vialli away from us at the beginning of 2023.

What is pancreatic cancer

Pancreatic cancer it is a silent, aggressive and still poorly understood neoplasm, diagnosed in 80% of cases only in an advanced stage due to the substantial absence or non-specificity of the symptoms. In the space of a few years, it risks becoming a health problem of considerable magnitude with tragic consequences not only for the lives of patients, but also for the finances of the national health system. How do they explain the Nadia Valsecchi Foundation and the association Beyond Research Odv «the absence of a well-defined diagnostic process it dramatically lengthens the time it takes to take care of the patient, and increases the number of specialists to whom the patient turns spontaneously, sometimes even inappropriately.”

The progress of scientific research

There research However, he has made some important steps. For example, it has been found that certain groups of people are more at risk of developing the disease familiarity (presence of multiple cases of pancreatic cancer in the family) or because they are carriers of mutations in genes such as Brca, Cdkn2A and others also involved in the development of pancreatic cancer.

Recent studies also demonstrate that the presence of recent onset diabetes you hate long-standing diabetes no longer well compensated with therapy it is another important factor that must alert those who follow the patient to a scrupulous evaluation of the pancreas. The evidence of the studies published in the literature demonstrates that the identification of particular categories of subjects at risk and the surveillance conducted with the right means, and with the correct timing, can lead to early diagnoses and consequently to a higher percentage of cases resectable and to a higher survival of the patients.

The shortcomings of the national health system

Nadia Valsecchi Foundation And Oltre la Ricerca Association ODVorganizations that for years have been working to raise awareness among the population, support research on pancreatic cancer and assist patients and their families in the diagnosis and treatment paths, raise the alarm: «We need to develop strategies for taking care of patients in the territory in order to guarantee equity of care and the ‘right to health’ throughout the national territory – he explains Francesca Gabellinipresident of Oltre la Ricerca Odv – the mandatory duties of social solidarity enshrined in our Constitution are also implemented with the implementation of essential levels of assistance, which should be guaranteed everywhere according to criteria of uniformity through regulatory intervention by the State ».

The problem is that today, he adds Federica Valsecchi, president of the Nadia Valsecchi Foundation, «there are few structures that have activated active surveillance protocols referring to subjects at increased risk of developing the pathology, or standardized diagnostic-therapeutic care pathways (PDTA). There is a lack of resources and strategies dedicated to this by the NHS, just as the funds dedicated to scientific research on this pathology should be implemented at a European level.”

Lowest 5-year survival rate among all oncological diseases

It is therefore time to raise attention to the symptoms which, even if generic and non-specific, when put into a system can base suspicion for the initiation of specific investigations, and towards institutions to structure protocols for taking charge of the patient. With the lowest five-year survival rate from diagnosis among all oncological diseases – around 10-12%far from the 88% of breast cancer – that against pancreatic cancer is in fact a challenge that the medical and scientific world is called upon to deal with, involving as many actors as possible: an early diagnosis can allow good chances of survival five years.

The alarm bells

Knowing the warning signs is essential for timely treatment. The important thing is to learn to listen to your body to recognize symptoms that should not be underestimated. As in the case of:

  • a backache or a deep pain in the upper abdomen which represent more than a nuisance.
  • a loss of weight and appetite sudden
  • a yellow color of the skin and eyes
  • a itching unusual
  • a change in digestion and in bowel habits

The campaign for World Pancreatic Cancer Day

For this reason, the Valsecchi Foundation and the Oltre la Ricerca Odv association have joined forces, on the occasion of the World Pancreatic Cancer Day scheduled for November 16th, two highly relevant partnerships: on the one hand with Federfarmathe federation that unites over 19 thousand pharmacies throughout the national territory, on the other with Simg, Italian general medicine society with the aim of spreading the awareness campaign, turning the spotlight on this health emergency and at the same time activating that fundamental triangulation between associations, pharmacists and doctors, both essential points of reference for patients.

The campaign claim is «How much does 80 grams weigh?» a small organ – 80 grams is in fact the average weight of the pancreas – but of great importance, with a “weight” therefore far greater than its physical dimensions.

«The path to the diagnosis and treatment of pancreatic cancer is very complex, and requires, in addition to adequate technological resources, the management of a multidisciplinary team that encompasses all the specialist skills that deal with the pancreas. The creation of a standardized diagnosis and treatment path, and of network coordination between expert centers (called Hubs) and less expert ones (spokes) is essential to guarantee more adequate care for patients”, he says Silvia Carrarapresident ofAisp, Italian Association for the Study of Pancreas and gastroenterologist at the Irccs Istituto Clinico Humanitas.

At the same time, and this is the aim of the campaign, starting from general practitioners as well as pharmacists can help that work of attention: «The majority of patients with pancreatic cancer begin their diagnostic journey by presenting their symptoms to their doctor – he says Claudio Cricelli, president Simg – it is increasingly necessary to spread suspicion and apply strategies aimed at achieving early diagnoses. For this purpose, for example, the Endpac model can provide useful indications, like other diagnostic scores. General practitioners are increasingly requiring support of this type, in the absence of early markers, to identify patients at risk who require further investigation.”

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Source: Vanity Fair

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