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Screening

Screening means testing people for early stages of a disease before they have any symptoms. For screening to be useful the tests:

  • need to be reliable at picking up cancers
  • overall must do more good than harm to people taking part
  • must be something that people are willing to do

Screening tests are not perfect and have some risks. The screening programme should also be good value for money for the NHS.

No screening available

There is no national screening programme because:

  • this condition is very rare, so many people would have unnecessary tests
  • the benefits don't outweigh the costs

Talk to your GP if you think you are at higher than average risk of pancreatic cancer.

Screening for people at high risk

It is more cost effective to screen people thought to be at higher than average risk of pancreatic cancer.

EUROPAC is an organisation involved in researching pancreatic cancer. It runs a screening programme for people who may be at high risk.

Screening might be offered if you have:

  • hereditary pancreatitis (a rare inherited condition causing inflammation of the pancreas)
  • a high incidence of pancreatic cancer in their family (familial pancreatic cancer)
  • a family history of at least one person with pancreatic cancer, and have a linked cancer syndrome for example a BRCA2 gene fault (mutation)

When you start the screening programme you have a blood test taken.

You then have a 3 yearly CT scan or endoluminal ultrasound test. The doctor takes a sample of your pancreatic juice which they examine for changes in 3 particular genes: K-Ras, p53 and p16.

If they find any changes in these genes, you have the tests yearly. If there are no gene changes, you continue to have the tests every 3 years.

This screening programme can't stop you getting pancreatic cancer. But it can help to diagnose it at an early stage.

Screening ususally begins around 40, but it might start earlier. 

Talk to your GP if you think you are at higher than average risk of pancreatic cancer.

Information and help