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Screening for Pancreatic Cancer in High-Risk Individuals

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Effective screening for pancreatic cancer remains heavily a research question. At this time, no major professional group recommends routine population-based screening nor has any screening test been shown to lower the risk of death from the disease.

One challenge facing screening for pancreatic cancer is a lack of a proven selection process to determine which patients constitute the appropriate high-risk group to target. As a result, it is unclear exactly who needs to be to be screened, at what age to start, or at what intervals, Philip Philip, MD, PhD, explains.

What to do with the findings is also often uncertain, recognizing the potential for an invasive intervention that may not be necessary in an otherwise healthy patient following a false positive, Philip notes. However, major academic centers have screening programs and are collaborating to answer questions regarding the best approach.

For these reasons, population-based screening for pancreatic cancer is not something to expect in the near future. However, there are several small groups of people known to be at higher risk, such as those with positive family history, Lynch Syndrome, or BRCA mutations, explains Eileen O’Reilly, MD. Noninvasive imaging tools can be used for early detection in these patients. Some screening programs have incorporated using alternating endoscopic ultrasound and MRI in the very high-risk population, since exposing these patients to radiation with routine CT scans is less desirable.

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