Marshfield Clinic offers new high risk screening for pancreatic cancer

Published: Jan. 6, 2021 at 5:36 AM CST
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - For years, health experts have recommended screenings for breast, color and other types of cancer. Now, new research suggest patients at high risk for pancreatic cancer could greatly benefit from screening as well.

Two years ago, Alex Trebek would become synonymous with pancreatic cancer. The game show host lived out a story many do, once they’re diagnosed with the disease.

“It’s often diagnosed at an advanced stage and usually comes with a poor prognosis,” said Mary Saeger, a physician assistant at Marshfield Clinic. “Survival rate isn’t very good for people once they’re diagnosed.”

Saeger says one of the reasons pancreatic cancer is so hard to find is because it comes with incredibly vague symptoms in its early stages.

“Weight loss, or abdominal pain, or other types of upper back pain, or generally not feeling well,” said Saeger.

“I think we’re learning more over the years that there’s a genetic component to pancreatic cancer,” said Saeger. “People who have any family member with pancreatic cancer, especially a first relative like a parent, sibling or child, would qualify for genetic evaluation.”

Newer guidelines allow for a new type of high risk screening, meaning people who’ve known about their genetic risk can get the early testing they need.

“Otherwise it’s been, we know you’re at risk but where to go with that and is insurance going to be inclined to cover it wasn’t certain, so now we have that to go from,” said Saeger.

Ask your primary care provider if you qualify for high risk screening. That would typically be patients with family history of pancreatic cancer or patients with certain genetic mutations. The screening could be an MRI or endoscopic ultrasound.

“Hopefully have a goal of identifying people who are at risk, doing screening and identifying something in their pancreas, a cyst or precancerous type of lesion, that can be caught before cancer develops,” said Saeger.

Click here to learn more about Marshfield Clinic’s new high risk screening for pancreatic cancer.

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