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Who should be screened for pancreatic cancer?

Research has shed light on multi-organ cancer syndromes that increase the risk of developing pancreatic cancer. These syndromes include:
  • Breast, ovarian, and prostate cancer in association with the BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 genes
  • Lynch syndrome (also called HNPCC, or hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer), which is associated with colorectal, endometrial, ovarian, renal, biliary, and pancreatic cancers
  • Peutz-Jeghers syndrome, which is associated with multiple  gastrointestinal polyps
  • FAMMM, or Familial Atypical Multiple Mole Melanoma, which can be marked by the presence of multiple moles on the body and history of melanoma in young family members
  • Hereditary pancreatitis
Even if a person does not fit into one of the syndromes above, he or she may still be at a higher risk for the development of pancreatic if they have a family history of the disease, meaning if multiple family members were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Other important signs of increased risk include early onset of cancers and multiple cancers in the family. Ideally, people should seek screening at least 10 years prior to the age at which their youngest relative with cancer was diagnosed.

For anyone with a family history of cancer, early screening is very important. If there is cancer in your family -- not just pancreatic, but any type of cancer -- you can now be proactive when you are feeling well and without symptoms in order to prevent cancer through screening tests, if available. If you wait until symptoms appear, often that is too late. While younger adults may resist the idea, they are especially encouraged to seek screening earlier rather than later. Not only can it help in treating yourself, but if you have children, knowledge about a genetic mutation or syndrome can potentially help your children. Your siblings may also be at risk and can benefit from screening.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.