Pancreatic Cancer in NSW
In 2006, pancreatic cancer accounted for 2.2 per cent of all new cases of cancer. Pancreatic cancer accounted for 5.4 per cent of all cancer deaths and was the sixth most common cause of cancer mortality in New South Wales in 2006.
Until 2000, the age-standardised incidence rate of pancreatic cancer was declining in males but increasing by 0.7 per cent per annum in females. However since 2000, rates have increased by 1.8 per cent per annum in males and continued to increase at 0.7 per cent per annum in females.
The major risk factor for pancreatic cancer is age and, as with many cancers, the risk of developing pancreatic cancer increases with age. Pancreatic cancer is uncommon in people under 50 years old. Age-specific incidence rates in 80-85 year olds are 9.8 and 15.0 times higher in males and females respectively compared to 50-54 year olds. There is very little variation in pancreatic cancer incidence by demographic variables such as geographic location, socioeconomic status or country of birth.
"The best hope lies with the development of new diagnostic methods to detect the pre-cursor cells to invasive cancer."
Consistently, most cases of pancreatic cancer have been diagnosed at a distant degree of spread. In 2006, only 16.8 per cent of cases were diagnosed with cancer localised to the pancreas. The majority (43.7% of cases) were diagnosed with distant spread or secondary metastases and 13.4 per cent had regional spread outside the pancreas. Just over one quarter of cases (26.1%) were of an unknown degree of spread.
Pancreatic cancer has a poor prognosis with very low survival. Most cases (75%) do not survive past one year, and the five-year relative survival for the 1999-2003 period was 7.2 per cent. Five-year relative survival has not improved significantly since 1980. There has been a slight but significant increase in one-year survival from 19.3 per cent in the 1980-1983 period, to 24.6 per cent in the 1999-2003 period. Even pancreatic cancers diagnosed with localised disease have a poor five-year survival of 11.2 per cent. Therefore, earlier detection of pancreatic cancers will have limited benefit in improving the overall survival from pancreatic cancer. The best hope lies with the development of new diagnostic methods to detect the pre-cursor cells to invasive cancer, and new treatments for pancreatic cancer.