Former Italy striker Gianluca Vialli has died after a five-year battle with pancreatic cancer, it was revealed today.

The 58-year-old, who also played for Chelsea and Juventus during an illustrious career that spanned the 1980s and 90s, was regarded as a footballing popstar.

He was initially diagnosed in 2017 with hard-to-spot cancer, one of the deadliest types. It also claimed the lives of actors Patrick Swayze, Alan Rickman and Apple founder Steve Jobs.

One of the few people to have held a player-manager role at a top club during his time with Chelsea, Vialli was given the all-clear in 2020 after treatment at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London. But in 2021 his illness was seen again.

Wyllie with his wife, Catherine White-Cooper, whom he married in August 2003

Gianluca Vialli with his wife, Catherine White-Cooper, whom he married in August 2003

Vialli (left) pictured with Italy manager Roberto Mancini (right) after their win in the 2021 European Championship final - there was love and friendship in that hug

Vialli (left) pictured with Italy manager Roberto Mancini (right) after their win in the 2021 European Championship final – there was love and friendship in that hug

Vialli and Mancini when the pair were playing together at Italian club Sampdoria

Vialli and Mancini when the pair were playing together at Italian club Sampdoria

Former teammates today paid heartwarming tributes to Willi, who died surrounded by family on Thursday night.

Graeme Souness broke down in tears as he paid an emotional tribute to Willie, who said he did not want to ‘burden other people’ with his illness.

Pancreatic cancer, which affects the organ of the same name, has a five-year survival rate of about seven percent.

Rates have barely improved over the past 50 years, despite medical breakthroughs in other areas.

For comparison, the five-year survival rate for skin cancer is 90 percent.

Experts say one reason behind its lethality is that it is so difficult to detect early and there is no way to screen for it.

Because it is often detected late, cancer can be difficult to treat once it has spread around the body.

But surgery – if the tumor is spotted early and hasn’t spread – may be recommended.

The doctor may also recommend that the patient have chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Around 9,000 Britons and 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with the disease each year.

It accounts for one in 20 cancer deaths in both countries.

Cancer of the pancreas, an organ that produces insulin and chemicals needed to digest food, often causes no symptoms in the early stages.

And even when cancer does spread, it can cause symptoms that may not be specific to pancreatic cancer — which can make it harder to diagnose.

These may include jaundice, itchy skin, dark urine, fatigue, and fever. Abdominal and back pain and weight loss are other useful signs.

Sufferers may also have symptoms that affect their digestive system, such as loss of appetite, changes in their stools, feeling or being sick, and indigestion.

10-year cancer survival rates for many common cancers have now risen above the 50 percent mark, and experts say further improvements could be made over the next decade.

10-year cancer survival rates for many common cancers have now risen above the 50 percent mark, and experts say further improvements could be made over the next decade.

While the rate of cancer survival progress has been rapid for some forms of the disease, such as for breast and prostate cancer, others, such as for lung and pancreas, have only improved at a snail's pace.

While the rate of cancer survival progress has been rapid for some forms of the disease, such as for breast and prostate cancer, others, such as for lung and pancreas, have only improved at a snail’s pace.

Pancreatic cancer, considered the deadliest, has also claimed the lives of actors Patrick Swayze, Alan Rickman (pictured) and Apple founder Steve Jobs.

Pancreatic cancer, considered the deadliest, has also claimed the lives of actors Patrick Swayze (pictured), Alan Rickman and Apple founder Steve Jobs.

Pancreatic cancer, considered the deadliest, has also claimed the lives of actors Patrick Swayze (right), Alan Rickman (left) and Apple founder Steve Jobs.

However, many of these symptoms are common and are not a sign of pancreatic cancer.

Instead, they may be caused by an inflamed pancreas, known as pancreatitis, stomach ulcers, gallstones, irritable bowel syndrome or hepatitis.

The severity of cancer depends on where it is in the pancreas, how large it is, if it has spread and a person’s overall health.

It is often not clear what causes pancreatic cancer. But being overweight, a diet rich in red meat, drinking too much alcohol, and smoking are all risk factors.

People over the age of 75, those with chronic pancreatitis, and those with a family history of pancreatic cancer are also at higher risk.

Blood tests, scans and biopsies may be needed to diagnose cancer.

What is pancreatic cancer?

Pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest forms of the disease, and about 95 percent of people who contract it die from it.

Joan Crawford, Patrick Swayze, and Luciano Pavarotti all died of pancreatic cancer.

It is the sixth most common cause of cancer death in the UK – with pancreatic cancer diagnosed in around 10,000 people each year in the UK, as well as around 55,000 in the US.

What is the reason?

It is caused by abnormal and uncontrolled growth of cells in the pancreas – a large gland in the digestive tract.

Who is most at risk?

Most cases (90 percent) are in people over the age of 55.

About half of new cases occur in people aged 75 or older.

About one in 10 cases is due to genetics.

Other possible causes include age, smoking and other health conditions including diabetes.

Why is it so deadly?

There is no screening method for pancreatic cancer.

Pancreatic cancer usually does not show symptoms in the early stages, when it is more manageable.

Jaundice and abdominal pain – around the third or fourth stage, when it has already spread to other organs, sufferers start developing obvious symptoms.

What are the treatment options?

The only effective treatment is removal of the pancreas.

It is largely ineffective for those whose cancer has spread to other organs.

In those cases, palliative care is recommended to ease their pain at the end of their life.

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