In the collective imagination, having pancreatic cancer is like a death sentence. This is not true for at least two reasons. Professor Alessandro Zerbi, Supervisor of Pancreatic Surgery at Humanitas, spoke about this in an interview for the newspaper “Corriere della Sera”.

“First of all, pancreatic tumor is not pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic cancer is a much more aggressive disease if compared to other types of cancer. However, things are changing thanks to the improvements brought by the new radiotherapic and chemotherapic treatments.

Then, we should highlight that there are many tumors that are not pancreatic cancers. They have a different histology and they originate in different cells of the pancreas (such as endocrinal cancers and cystic tumors). They are pancreatic tumors, but they have a completely different prognosis (sometimes utterly good) than pancreatic cancer. For these reasons, different tumors and new medications, pancreatic tumor is not always a death sentence”, Prof. Zerbi explained

What are the risk factors one should pay attention to?

“Risk factors often concern our lifestyle and are common to other types of tumor, such as smoking, that is the main one for pancreatic cancer, a diet that is too rich in animal fats, and exposure to industrial carcinogens. From a certain point of view, hereditariness is also a risk factor. People who already have cases in their family may enroll in more frequent control and screening programs, in order to eventually get an earlier diagnosis”.

What is the cure for pancreas tumors nowadays?

“In general, except in special cases, the cute for pancreatic tumors is mainly via surgical removal. We are able to cure pancreatic cancer, that is the most frequent and dangerous one, via the combination of surgical treatment, chemotherapic treatment and, eventually, radiotherapic treatment. This approach may lead to good results. In some cases it may be best to start with a chemotherapic treatment and then let the patient undergo a surgical operation. In other cases instead, via the traditional way, the contrary may happen. However, the alliance between different therapies and a multidisciplinary approach are paramount.

Much still has to be done, and there are less improvements than for other types of tumor. For this reason, pancreatic tumor still has a more severe prognosis than other tumors. However, things are changing, and therapies are getting more personalized and centered on the single cases”, Professor Zerbi pointed out.