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It makes sense to screen people at risk of pancreatic cancer

The screening consists of an annual MRI scan and is offered only to people who have a DNA error in the gene that contains the p16 protein prescription. This DNA mistake increases the risk of pancreatic cancer by up to 20 percent. The conclusion of the study in the 20-year screening program is clear: annual screening of people with a genetically increased risk of pancreatic cancer makes sense. More than 80 percent of participants who had pancreatic cancer were able to undergo surgery.

This is only the case in the normal population in about 20 percent of patients because the tumor is often already very large or has metastasized. Additionally, the median 5-year survival after diagnosis among participants was 32 percent, compared to just 5 percent in the general population. “Our results show that this screening leads to the detection of pancreatic cancer at an earlier stage, with better survival,” says gastroenterologist Monique van Leerdam, MD.


In the end, 350 people with a fault in the p16 gene participated in the examination. But how do you find out that you have this error? LUMC physicians have been monitoring families from the area for a long time, as melanomas have been relatively common. The cause was found to be in the p16 gene. Remarkably, these so-called p16 Leiden carriers often also develop pancreatic cancer. This was the reason why gastroenteric hepatologist Hans Fassen began an annual screening for pancreatic cancer in this group in the early 2000s.

Despite the positive results, it is important to realize that there is also a downside to screening programmes. This includes the chance of false positives, that is, patients who appear to have a tumor on examination, but which ultimately turn out not to be the case. This occurred in 7 cases in this study.

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According to physician and researcher Dirk Klatt and gastroenterologist and hepatologist Monique van Leerdam, this screening program is unique in the world and only possible due to the participation of p16 Leiden carriers and a 20-year commitment of a dedicated team consisting of radiologists, surgeons, pathologists, clinical geneticists and dermatologists.

By: National Care Guide