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Awareness and Diagnosis

Raising awareness of Pancreatic Cancer

  • In 2020, the pancreas is the 5th biggest cause of cancer death in Europe. The increase of the new cases is the 8th of all cancers in Europe and the 12th in the world1.
  • Pancreatic cancer has one of the lowest survival rates of all cancers and its mortality is on the rise in both sexes.
  • Due to severe underdiagnosis, the overall median survival for a person diagnosed with metastatic pancreatic cancer is 4.6 months. Patients affected with pancreatic cancer lose 98% of their healthy life expectancy at the point of diagnosis.3
  • Only 20% of all cases of pancreatic cancer are operable to treat patients with surgery. A prime reason for the inability to treat patients is late diagnosis.4
  • Today, a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer is generally associated with a death sentence and few patients are alive one year after diagnosis, while an earlier diagnosis could help reduce the mortality of the disease. If diagnosed in time, chances of survival increase.

One of the biggest obstacles to taking action against pancreatic cancer is the lack of awareness of the disease itself and the challenges faced by patients. Pancreatic cancer is often referred to as a “forgotten cancer”. The key goal of the Platform is to ensure that this cancer is not forgotten by policy makers, so that appropriate policies can be implemented.

Today, a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer is generally associated with a death sentence and few patients stay alive one year after diagnosis, while an earlier diagnosis could help reduce the mortality of the disease. However, if diagnosed in time, chances of survival increase. The aim of the diagnosis Work Stream is to raise awareness of the main symptoms and early signs of pancreatic cancer among the general population and the medical community to help achieve earlier diagnostics.

  • To tell everybody the known risks, illnesses and hobbits that increase the incidence of pancreatic cancer
  • To define a high-risk population
  • To start with primary prevention
  • To design a proper screening program
  • Age over 50
  • Long-standing diabetes mellitus5
  • Cigarette smoking6
  • Heavy alcohol drinking7
  • Obesity8
  • Chronic pancreatitis9
  • Family history of pancreatic cancer and hereditary cancer10
  • Blood group A or B
  • Alcohol: 
    High alcohol consumption (more than three drinks per day) increases the risk of pancreatic cancer12
  • Obesity:
    The second most modifiable risk13
    Higher levels of prediagnostic BMI levels are associated with decreased survival in pancreatic cancer
  • Chronic pancreatitis
    Accounts for approximately 4~5% of pancreatic cancer15,16
  • People with a family history of pancreatic cancer:
    The risk increases 2-3 time17
    Approximately 5–10% of people with pancreatic cancer have a family history of pancreatic cancer

It’s important to note that people can also develop pancreatic cancer if they don’t have any of the risk factors. It is estimated that two-thirds of the major risk factors associated with pancreatic cancer are potentially modifiable, providing an opportunity for preventing the disease.

Late diagnosis is the main reason for the low survival rate of pancreatic cancer patients

The diagnosis of pancreatic cancer usually starts with a general practitioner visit and is followed by a referral to a specialist. Tests and investigations (blood tests, ultrasound scan and radiography scans, biopsy) are run to confirm the diagnosis.

Have a look at the main symptoms of pancreatic cancer:

If you continuously experience two or more of these symptoms which are not normal for you, you should get checked by your doctor because these symptoms may indicate pancreatic cancer.

  1. WHO – World Health Organisation
  2. Health Consumer Powerhouse, Euro Pancreatic Cancer Index, 2014, ISBN 978-91-980687-3-3
  3. Ibid.
  4. Carrato et al, 2015. “A Systematic Review of the Burden of Pancreatic Cancer in Europe: Real-World Impact on Survival, Quality of Life and Costs.” DOI 10.1007/s12029-015-9724-1
  5. M. Ducreux, A. Sa. Cuhna, C. Caramella, A. Hollebecque, P. Burtin, D. Goéré, T. Seuerlein, K. Haustermans, J.L. Van Laethem, T. Conroy, D. Arnold, “Cancer of the pancreas: ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up.” https://doi.org/10.1093/annonc/mdv295.
  6. Pancreatic Cancer Trends in Europe, 166 and Hawksworth, Graeme, et al. “Pancreatic Cancer Trends in Europe: Epidemiology and Risk Factors.” Medical Studies, vol. 35, no. 2, 2019, pp. 164–171, 10.5114/ms.2019.86336.
  7. Pancreatic Cancer Trends in Europe, 167
  8. ESMO
  9. UEG: Pancreatic Cancer Across Europe. https://ueg.eu/p/80
  10. UEG: Pancreatic Cancer Across Europe. https://ueg.eu/p/80
  11. European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO), www.esmo.org
  12. Pancreatic Cancer Trends in Europe, 167
  13. European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO), www.esmo.org
  14. European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO), www.esmo.org
  15. European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO), www.esmo.org
  16. UEG: Pancreatic Cancer Across Europe, https://ueg.eu/p/80
  17. Ibid.
  18. Pancreatic Cancer Trends in Europe, 167