Pancreatic cancer

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Pancreatic cancer accounts for 3% of all cancers in the UK; 7000 new cases are diagnosed annually and a similar number die from the disease each year. It has an insidious onset and as a result presentation is usually late, with only about 10–20% of patients having disease amenable to surgical resection. Following resection, the median survival is 11–20 months and the 5-year survival is 7–25%. Patients with unresectable locally advanced disease have a median survival of 6–11 months, and those with metastatic disease have a median survival of 2–6 months. Accurate staging has a vital role in the management of pancreatic tumours now that non-surgical palliative options are available. Computed tomography is the imaging modality of choice for diagnosis and staging of pancreatic cancer. With recent advances in magnetic resonance imaging and endoscopic ultrasonography, it is now possible to improve the accuracy of preoperative staging, particularly with respect to local invasion and regional node involvement. Resection is the only treatment that offers the potential of cure; ideally, an R0 resection should be aimed for. Chemotherapy renders a survival advantage in the adjuvant setting, even in patients undergoing R1 resections. Palliative chemotherapy with gemcitabine can improve survival by 10–15% and other palliative therapies are aimed at relieving jaundice, controlling pain, treating malabsorption and reversing cancer cachexia.

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