Pancreatic cancer: the importance of the multidisciplinary approach

Our General Surgery expert talks to us about the current situation regarding the diagnosis and treatment of pancreatic cancer and how the work of a multidisciplinary team is fundamental to offer patients the most suitable therapies.

What is the pancreas?

The pancreas is a gland about 15 cm long and weighing 70-80 gr which is located at the level of the first two lobar vertebrae, arranged transversely immediately behind the stomach. This gland has a dual function:

  • Exocrine: producing the enzymes necessary for digestion
  • Endocrine: secreting hormones that release the blood

Pancreatic cancer: how is the situation in Italy?

The pancreatic cancer is a very complicated cancer is the diagnostically and therapeutically, which affects about 13,000 people each year in Italy. In the past 15 years the incidence of this tumor has increased by 15% and it is estimated that in 2030 it will become one of the main causes of death in the West.

What are the causes of pancreatic cancer?

The main causes of this neoplasm are:

  • Smoke
  • Alcohol
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes

In addition, there are associated factors such as:

  • familiarity
  • Intestinal microbiota composition
  • Excess sugar
  • Incorrect diet

To try to prevent pancreatic cancer, it is necessary to follow a lifestyle as healthy as possible, eliminating or reducing the risk factors of this pathology.

Why is it difficult to make an early diagnosis?

When the pancreas becomes ill, in most cases it does not present symptoms until it reaches the advanced stage: for this reason it is difficult to make an early diagnosis. Furthermore, given its location in a very deep, complex and delicate area of ​​the human body, it is not uncommon for this neoplasm to manifest itself in a very aggressive form. For this reason, the dissemination of knowledge must be increased by providing information at all levels.

Pancreatic cancer therapies

In recent years, the treatment of this neoplasm has undergone a great improvement due to the increasingly sophisticated knowledge of the cancer cell and its mechanisms that lead to programmed cell death (apoptosis, that is, the sick cell is forced to commit suicide). All this has made it possible to improve the quality and life span of pancreatic cancer patients : therapies, surgery and postoperative support, combined with innovative chemotherapy and immunonutritional drugs, have increased the survival rate to five years at 25 %, compared to 10% ten years ago. Furthermore, even for advanced patients who present metastases , the results are very encouraging.

Doctor, what do you think of this scenario?

In this situation, a multidisciplinary approach is essential , able to offer patients the best solution for their condition. The team should include several professionals:

  • Surgeon
  • Gastroenterologist
  • Oncologist
  • Pathologist
  • Radiologist
  • Radiation Oncologist
  • endoscopist
  • Nutritionist
  • Psychologist

Our Institute has trained a group of specialists of different specialties in order to face the problems presented by each patient at 360º. I, like my colleagues, offer patients the result of my scientific and surgical preparation and practice which I have managed to gain in 10 years of experience at national and international centers.


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