20 July 2016

Pancreatic cancer


Every year, over 10,000 people are affected by pancreatic cancer. The increase in the number of cases is proportional to the age and equally distributed between the two sexes. The new cases of pancreatic cancer estimated in 2015 were 5,900 in men and 6,600 in women (I numeri del cancro in Italia, 2015, AIOM).
About 70% of pancreatic tumors develop in the head of the organ, and most of these originate in the ducts transporting digestive enzymes.
Tumor cells growing in the pancreas unfortunately spread with great ease to the close lymph nodes and to organs such as the lungs and the liver, or spread in the abdomen giving rise to the so-called “peritoneal carcinosis”.
Moreover, pancreatic cancer cannot be detected until it has reached considerable dimensions or when it obstructs major blood vessels. This, together with the position and relationship with the other organs in the abdomen, makes pancreatic cancer one of the most difficult forms of neoplasias to treat. Surgery is the most effective therapeutic option when the tumor can be removed, that is when it does not extend to the nearby major blood vessels or spread to the surrounding organs. The patients for which surgical intervention is not indicated are eligible to radiation treatment with more or less concomitant chemotherapy. The purpose of radiotherapy is to minimize the local extension of the disease, also for symptomatic purposes, in the event of disorders related to the involvement and infiltration of close organs.

(Source: AIRC, 2016)

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