By the year 2030, pancreatic cancer is expected to be the second most common cause of cancer deaths in the U.S.
Although it is considered a relatively rare cancer, inherited gene mutations can increase a person’s risk of developing the disease. For most cancers, early detection contributes to longer survival. Yet the majority of pancreatic cancer patients are diagnosed in later stages, when surgery is no longer an option. That’s partly due to the fact that in earlier stages many people may not have symptoms indicative of pancreatic cancer, making it much more difficult to detect.
A new set of national guidelines published by the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE) was released in May 2022. These guidelines recommend annual pancreatic cancer screening for patients who are at increased risk because of genetic susceptibility. While earlier guidelines had restricted screening to only those individuals with BRCA1/2 mutations who had a family history of pancreatic cancer, this new set of guidelines now recommends screening for all patients with the gene variations, regardless of family history.
“Fewer than 25 percent of patients with BRCA1/2 who go on to develop pancreatic cancer actually have a family history of the disease,” explains gastroenterologist Amitabh Chak, M.D., Professor of Medicine and Oncology at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and the Brenda and Marshall B. Brown Master Clinician in Innovation and Discovery at University Hospitals UH Seidman Cancer Center (Cleveland, Ohio).