It is a very dangerous type of cancer: only 10% of those affected are alive five years after diagnosis

    Gianluca Vialli fought for five years with the pancreatic cancer, it seemed that he had managed to overcome it in 2020, but unfortunately in the end the disease won out and snatched the much loved former footballer and manager from his life at just 58 years of age. Let’s see more specifically what it is, how this type of cancer manifests itself and what the risk factors, treatments and chances of survival are.

    Pancreatic cancer: what is it?

    Pancreatic cancer is a neoplasm that affects a gland of fundamental importance for the human body. The pancreasin fact, it is located between the stomach and the spine and has two components:

    • a exocrine which is responsible for the production of enzymes released in the intestine useful for the digestion of food;
    • a endocrine which is used in the formation and release into the blood of essential hormones such as insulin and glucagon, which are important for the control of sugar levels.

    According to data from the Italian Association of Cancer Registries – AIRTUM updated to 2019 in Italy pancreatic cancer constitutes 3% of all tumours and about 10% are familiar with this disease, in fact one of the main risk factors is having had relatives with this tumor.

    Pancreatic cancer: symptoms and diagnosis

    One of the reasons this type of cancer is difficult to overcome is that it is rarely diagnosed early. Symptoms appear when it is already in an advanced stage or even metastatic. Among the most common symptoms are:

    • yellow discoloration of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
    • dark urine
    • pale, oily, loosely formed and buoyant stools (steatorrhea)
    • pain between the abdomen and back
    • frequent diarrhea
    • weight loss
    • inappetence
    • nausea
    • He retched
    • enlarged gallbladder or liver
    • blood clots and blood clots in the leg veins
    • changes in blood sugar levels

    They may be needed genetic tests to identify a possible hereditary syndrome and therefore choose the most appropriate treatment for the specific case. Unfortunately there are no recommended screening programs for pancreatic cancer, unlike other types of cancer, but those who are familiar can contact specialized centres where it can be directed towards the most suitable type of screening such as endoscopic ultrasound or MRI.

    Treatment and survival

    Gianluca Vialli was operated on for pancreatic cancer, but in reality not all patients can undergo surgery, usually the number of patients with operable pancreatic cancer is between 20 and 30%. The operation is usually accompanied by oncological therapy due to the risk of the presence of micro-metastases. Chemotherapy is the most common type of treatment in these cases. The survival rate is between 8 and 10%. In one out of two cases, the disease is already metastatic due to a higher rate of spread than other types of cancer.

    Risk factors

    Among the main risk factors are smoking, obesity, chronic pancreatitis (which may also be due to alcohol abuse), BRCA gene mutation. In Italy every year there are about 14 thousand new cases of pancreatic cancer and in most cases it is people between the ages of 60 and 80.