This neoplasm still has the lowest survival rate among all oncological pathologies, but if the diagnosis occurs in the early stages the prospects improve greatly
«How much does 80 grams weigh?» It is a trick question that was chosen for the awareness campaign on pancreatic cancer, which is being celebrated World Day on November 16th. Self 80 grams in absolute there are certainly not many, few know that such is the average weight of pancreas
, small organ located in the abdomen, behind the stomach, about 15-20 centimeters large. This scant hectogram then takes on decidedly greater importance if one considers what it does two fundamental functions for our body: produces hormones such as insulin and glucagonwhich regulate blood sugar levels, e secretes enzymes for food digestion. Even more relevant is the weight of the pancreas if it becomes ill, especially if the pathology in question is cancer. The same one that marked the fate of illustrious people, such as the footballer Gianluca Vialli (we wrote about it here), tenor Luciano Pavarotti, actor Patrick Swayze and Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.
Watch out for these symptoms
Aggressive and still difficult to fight, pancreatic cancer unfortunately has the lowest survival rate among all oncological diseases: five years after diagnosis, on average, 10-12% of patients are alive. A percentage far from the 88% of breast cancer, for example, or the 90% of prostate cancer. A sad record largely due to late diagnosis: «In eight out of ten cases the neoplasm is discovered in an advanced stagelimiting the possibilities of treatment – explains Silvia Carrara, president of the Italian Pancreas Study Association (Aisp) and gastroenterologist at the IRCCS Istituto Clinico Humanitas in Milan -: many of the early symptoms are in fact non-specific and often also associated with other types of pathologies, but an early diagnosis can instead allow a good chance of survival».
What are the signs not to be overlooked? It is good to talk to a doctor, without delaying too much, in case of pain in the upper abdomen, jaundice (yellowish color of the skin and eyes) e itching, sudden loss of weight and appetite, digestive difficulties, change in intestinal habits (soft and greasy stools), sudden onset of diabetes in an adult without specific risk factors, pain in the middle of the back.
Who risks more
On the occasion of World Day, they focus precisely on early diagnosis Nadia Valsecchi Foundation And Oltre la Ricerca ODV Association, organizations that for years have been involved in raising awareness among the population, supporting research on pancreatic cancer and assisting patients and their families in the diagnosis and treatment paths. The associations have in fact started a collaboration with Federfarma and the Italian Society of General Medicine (SIMG), to raise awareness among the population and institutions of the need to do more to identify a greater number of cases in the initial stage and activate surveillance paths in people at increased risk of pancreatic cancer. Smoke And extra pounds (especially obesity)
they increase the risk of getting sickas well as the diabetes and the pancreatitis chronic (a state of permanent inflammation among the most serious consequences of chronic alcohol abuse) e carrying a BRCA gene mutation. «Today I am few structures have been activated
active surveillance protocols for subjects at increased risk of developing the disease or Diagnostic-Therapeutic Care Paths (PDTA) standardized – says Federica Valsecchi, president of the Nadia Valsecchi Foundation -. There is a lack of resources and strategies dedicated to this by the National Health Service, just as the funds dedicated to scientific research on this pathology should be implemented at a European level.”
The usefulness of surveillance
More investments are needed to improve the hopes of those who fall ill, because something has started to move: albeit few and slow, even in pancreatic cancer There has been progress in recent years. “L’life expectation, which was mostly a few months, for a growing number of patients who are able to operate today it can even take up to three years – Silvia Carrara appealed -. Today we know that some groups of people are more at risk to develop the disease due to family history (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 presence of diabetes of recent onset, or of long standing no longer well compensated with the therapy in use, 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 operable and to a higher survival of the patients”. «It is necessary to develop strategies for taking care of patients in the area in order to guarantee equity of care and the “right to health” throughout the national territory – says Francesca Gabellini, president 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 uniform criteria through regulatory intervention by the State”.
Therapies in expert hands
Every year in Italy they are registered over 14,500 new cases of pancreatic cancer, most of them in people between 60 and 80 years old. And the numbers are, unfortunately, increasing. For some time, however, specialists have underlined the importance of contacting a reference center in the diagnosis and treatment of pancreatic tumors because, as studies and statistics have shown, the surgeon’s experience makes the difference, as does the collaboration between various experts. “The The path to diagnosis and treatment of pancreatic cancer is very complexand requires, in addition to adequate technological resources, the taken care of by a multidisciplinary team which encompasses all the specialist skills that deal with the pancreas – specifies the president of Aisp, Carrara -. 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”. If the operation is to be carried out only in centers with certain requirements, where more expert hands are concentrated, the chemotherapy still remains todayimportant weapon and, essentially, the chances of definitive recovery depend on its ability to destroy the “invisible” disease.
Objective: early diagnosis
«The majority of patients with pancreatic cancer begin their diagnostic journey by presenting their symptoms to their doctor – adds Claudio Cricelli, president of Simg –: they realize necessary increasingly the diffusion of suspicion to identify patients at risk who need further investigation and the application of strategies aimed at achieving early diagnoses.”
Equally important, to save precious time, can be the role of the over 19 thousand pharmacies present throughout the national territory: «Providing prevention and screening is part of the daily activities of the community pharmacy – concludes Marco Cossolo, President of Federfarma Nazionale -. This is why we wholeheartedly support the campaign “How much do 80 grams weigh?” . Every day the pharmacists welcome and listen to the people who turn to them with trust for guidance and advice on their health problems, thus carrying out the role of informants and trainers in close collaboration with the other healthcare professionals operating in the area. With the aim, also in collaboration with scientific societies and patient associations, of creating multidisciplinary and integrated paths that put the patient at the centre.”
November 16, 2023 (changed November 16, 2023 | 07:16)
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