While the incidence of pancreatic cancer is increasing, awareness of the disease remains relatively low, experts said at a conference on gastroenterology in Vienna on Tuesday.
According to an Austria Press Agency report, the United European Gastroenterology (UEG) Week conference noted that about 100,000 people in Europe are expected to have pancreatic cancer in the coming year, overtaking the population with breast cancer, which is estimated to stand around 90,000.
However, the outlook for pancreatic cancer patients has not improved noticeably.
Femme Harinck from the Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands said over 80 percent of cases are only identified when the cancer is in its advanced stage as symptoms often appear late.
According to Harinck, the five-year survival rate for this cancer between 2008 and 2012 was only 7 percent, far less than the 70 percent of colon cancer.
Nuria Malats from the Spanish National Cancer Research Center holds a similar view.
She said the incidence of pancreatic cancer in the United States is expected to increase from 40 per 100,000 people in 2010 to 70 per 100,000 people by 2030. And the mortality rate from the cancer is only second to lung cancer.
Both of the two cancers are nowadays among the most difficult to treat.
Malats said the exact causes of pancreatic cancer are still not clear, though chronic local inflammations appear to lead to higher risk. Gum inflammations and resulting bacteria also appear to play a role, along with a mix of diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and smoking.
The expert said there are still no adequate screening programs on the cancer, and a family history of the cancer only proves to be an adequate indicator of potential risk in a small number of cases.