Quality of Life Innovations from the Columbia University Department of Surgery

Pancreatic Cancer: Prevention, Genetics and Early Detection
for Those at High Risk

The Pancreas Center
Cancer Prevention & Genetics Program
Columbia University Medical Center

Pancreatic cancer is one of the most challenging diseases we face today because it is difficult to treat and can quickly
spread to surrounding organs. Among the disease's risk factors, cigarette smoking is thought to be a direct cause
in about 30% of pancreatic cancer cases.

Family History and Risk

Family members of patients with pancreatic cancer may have a dramatically increased risk of developing the disease. Another significant risk is inherited gene
mutations, which play a role in up to 15% of cases of the disease. A family history of hereditary cancer syndromes also greatly increases risk, with distinct
cancer syndromes accounting for a number of inherited pancreatic cancers. These include:

  • Familial atypical multiple mole melanoma syndrome (FAMMM);
  • Peutz-Jeghers syndrome (PJS);
  • Early-onset familial breast cancer syndrome due to BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations;
  • Hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer syndrome (HNPCC); and
  • Hereditary pancreatitis.

What to Do if You Believe You Are at Risk

It is important to note that having one of more of these conditions does not mean you will definitely develop pancreatic cancer. Also, many people who do
develop pancreatic cancer do not have any of the conditions listed above. If you believe you are at increased risk for developing pancreatic cancer, it is
important to discuss this with your doctor and to schedule a comprehensive medical visit including risk stratification, in which your likelihood of developing
pancreatic cancer is assessed.

About Pancreatic Cancer Risk Stratification

During a risk stratification consultation, family and personal medical history are analyzed, and recommendations are provided for pancreatic cancer screening,
genetic counseling, and testing as appropriate. If there is a significant genetic risk, an ongoing testing regimen may be recommended so that the person may
ultimately avoid the disease. This testing regimen may involve imaging the pancreas with sensitive instruments to detect pre-cancerous abnormalities or small
cancers that are surgically curable.

In the battle against pancreatic cancer, specialists at the Pancreatic Cancer Prevention & Genetics Program at Columbia University Medical center believe
identifying risk prior to development of advanced disease poses the greatest opportunity in the battle against the disease. Quite simply, it represents a vital
opportunity to save lives
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