For many years, doctors have recommended screenings for breast, colon and other types of cancer. New research suggests screening for those at high risk for pancreatic cancer also could prove beneficial.
Pancreatic cancer is one of the most deadly types of cancers. According to the American Cancer Society, pancreatic cancer accounts for about 7% of all cancer deaths in the U.S., but only 3% of all cancers in the U.S.
“If someone in your family is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, it is important to talk to your provider about your personal risks of developing the condition,” said Dr. Jessica Wernberg, surgical oncologist and director of the High Risk Pancreatic Screening Program at Marshfield Clinic Health System.
Who is at increased risk?
Research has discovered several groups of people that are at an increased risk of pancreatic cancer. These groups include:
- Patients with a family history of pancreatic cancer in two or more relatives from the same side of the family.
- Patients with at least one relative with pancreatic cancer and one of the following gene mutations:
- BRCA1 or BRCA2 (Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Syndrome)
- MLH1, MLH2, MSH6 or EPCAM (Lynch Syndrome)
- TP53 (Li-Fraumeni Syndrome)
- Patients, regardless of family history, with one of the following gene mutations:
- STK11 (Puetz-Jeghers syndrome)
- CDKN2A (Familial Atypical Multiple Mole Melanoma)
- Patients with a diagnosis of hereditary pancreatitis.
If you are found to be at increased risk for pancreatic cancer, your care team may recommend additional screening to find any signs of cancer earlier and lifestyle modifications that can reduce your chance of developing pancreatic cancer.
Screening for pancreatic cancer
If you are at an increased risk for developing pancreatic cancer, Dr. Wernberg suggests guideline-based screenings for early detection of abnormalities.
These screening tests may involve imaging techniques such as MRI and/or endoscopic ultrasound.
“These tests would be conducted just like other cancer screening tests to ensure we can catch any signs of pancreatic cancer as soon as possible,” Dr. Wernberg said. “While this approach is new, we are excited that it is evolving quickly.”
For more information about high risk pancreatic cancer screening, talk to your provider about available options, or contact the High Risk Pancreatic Cancer Screening program at the Health System by calling 1-800-367-0982.