Pancreatic cancer is the fifth most common cause of cancer death overall.
In 2015, 3307 new cases of pancreatic cancer were diagnosed in Australia. The risk of being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer by age 85 is 1 in 54 for Australian men, and 1 in 70 for Australian women.
Pancreatic cancer presents with late symptoms and as a result, the five year survival rate for pancreatic cancer is 8%.
The goal of a cancer screening program is to detect cancer at an early stage when cure rates are higher.
The recent article by Canto et al in Gastroenterology Journal in 2018 demonstrates that a comprehensive pancreatic cancer screening program for high-risk individuals (based on genetic factors or family history) is effective in identifying precancerous lesions and early-stage cancers.
In this multicenter prospective cohort of patients, cancers detected were nearly all resectable, and the 5-year survival rate was an encouraging 85% in that group.
In summary, these results are encouraging and suggest that outcomes may be greatly improved with high risk individuals enrolled in a comprehensive pancreatic cancer screening program.
The difficulties are that for most individuals we do not actually know what their risks are (and whether they should be classed as high risk) as they have not had genetic testing for CDKN2A, BRCA1/2 or PALB2 gene mutations associated with pancreatic cancer.