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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 national screening available

There is no national screening programme because:

  • this type of cancer is relatively uncommon, so many people would have unnecessary tests
  • the benefits don't outweigh the costs

But people with an increased risk of pancreatic cancer may be able to have screening. Talk to your GP if you think you have a higher than average risk of developing pancreatic cancer.

Screening for people at high risk

EUROPAC is an organisation involved in researching pancreatic cancer. It is running a study looking at screening for people who have a high risk of developing pancreatic cancer.

There are different criteria for who can take part in the screening study, including if you have:

  • hereditary pancreatitis (a rare inherited condition causing inflammation of the pancreas)
  • a strong family history of pancreatic cancer (familial pancreatic cancer)
  • a family history of at least one person with pancreatic cancer, and have a linked family cancer syndrome, such as a BRCA2 gene fault (mutation)

When you start the screening programme you have blood tests.

You then have a CT scan Open a glossary item or an endoscopic ultrasound Open a glossary item. The doctor also takes a sample of your pancreatic juice which they check for changes in 3 particular genes Open a glossary item: K-Ras, p53 and p16.

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

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

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