Pancreatic Cancer: It’s Personal

Pancreatic cancer comes with little warning, and the timeframe from diagnosis to death is often very short. Therefore, early detection of pancreatic cancer is absolutely critical and increases survival rates for this deadly disease. We want to empower you with the tools and knowledge you need to be proactive about your health through education, guidance and support.


UNDERSTANDING GENETIC RISKS

If there is a history of pancreatic cancer in one or more of your family members, you may benefit from meeting with a genetic counselor to assess your own level of risk. The best person to be tested is the family member with the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer to determine if he or she has a genetic change that may have caused or contributed to his or her cancer. However, since these relatives may not be around, your genetic counselor can help you determine the next best person to test in your family. 

In addition, it will help to bring in all previous genetic testing results from any family members as well as any pathology reports from any relatives who have had any cancer or tumors. 

Knowing if you are at high risk can help you and your doctor decide if you should have tests to try to detect pancreatic cancer, since detection of pancreatic cancer in its early stages impacts survival rates. Pancreatic cancer is treatable when caught early, but most patients are diagnosed too late.


KNOW YOUR RISK

So what can you do now? It starts with knowing your risk: your family history and any genetic risk factors. The best way to determine your risk is to see a genetic counselor or other healthcare provider who specializes in cancer genetics and risk assessment. They are able to collect specific information for a comprehensive risk assessment, and provide you with additional information and insights on cancer prevention strategies specific to you. 

We have partnered with a former clinical cancer genetic counselor turned educator, Dena DNA, in developing this worksheet to collect pertinent information before your appointment.

I already have pancreatic cancer. Why would I need genetic testing?
Even if pancreatic cancer is found late, it can be extremely beneficial to determine the cause to detect the potential risk for any relatives. Some genetic test results may even change cancer treatment plans, so oncologists are now recommending genetic testing for anyone diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.


KNOW YOUR FAMILY

If your parents, grandparents, siblings or other family members have, or have had pancreatic cancer, you may be at an increased risk for the disease.

Talk to your loved ones to find out the medical history of those in your family, and download our “Know Your Family” worksheet for details on what information to gather from your family. After all, knowing your own risk for pancreatic cancer can start you on the path to early detection and a longer life.


ADDITIONAL RISK FACTORS

Beyond a family history of pancreatic cancer, there are other risk factors that may increase your risk. These include:

  • Chronic inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis)
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Family history of genetic syndromes, including but not limited to:
    • Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Syndrome (BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation)
    • Lynch syndrome (MLH1, MSH2, MSH6, PMS2, or EPCAM gene mutation)
    • Familial atypical multiple mole melanoma syndrome (FAMMM syndrome) (CDKN2A gene mutation)
    • PALB2 gene mutation
    • Peutz Jegher Syndrome (STK11 gene mutation)

RECOGNIZING SYMPTOMS

While genetic factors can increase risk, anyone can be impacted. Signs and symptoms often don’t occur until the disease is advanced, but see a doctor if you experience any of the following:

  • Pain in the upper abdomen that radiates to your back
  • Loss of appetite or unintended weight loss
  • Depression
  • New-onset diabetes
  • Blood clots
  • Fatigue
  • Jaundice of skin or eyes

When it comes to your health, you need to take it personally. Start today by learning your family’s medical history and take steps toward early detection now. If you have questions, or would like further information, please contact us via email or at 773.989.1108.


MULTI-GENE PANELS

Recent advances in cancer treatment have pushed genetic testing to the forefront of pancreatic cancer treatment planning, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) recommends anyone with pancreatic cancer be offered genetic testing with a multi-gene panel. 

Multi-gene panels test many genes at the same time. Changes in different genes can cause the same type of cancer. These genes can be looked at either one at a time, or all once. Testing many genes at one time is a faster, more cost-effective way to find the cause of cancer in a family. 

Multi-gene testing is helpful for individuals who have tested negative for a single syndrome in the past, but whose personal or family history is still strongly suggestive of an inherited risk. 

Over time, more genes are found to be associated with different types of cancers and are added to the panels. It is important to keep in touch with your genetic counselor to determine if updated testing with newly added genes is necessary.


The Rolfe Pancreatic Cancer Foundation's mission is to serve as a catalyst for the early diagnosis and ultimate cure of pancreatic cancer.

Take it personally – learn about your family history and take steps toward early detection today. If you’d like further information, please contact info@rolfefoundation.org.