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Cancer Risk Assessment for Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer is the form of cancer that starts in your pancreas. During digestion, your pancreas makes pancreatic juices called enzymes that help break down sugars, fats and starches. It also releases hormones that aid in regulating your blood sugar.

There are two kinds of pancreatic cancer based on the type of cell the cancer originates in. They are either the exocrine or neuroendocrine (endocrine) tumors. The type of tumor decides the type of treatment to be designated.

Worldwide pancreatic cancer is rare and ranks 14th in incidence and 7th in mortality; whereas India ranks 24th in its incidence and 18th in mortality of pancreatic cancer.

Recent genome advancements have made it possible for prediction of pancreatic cancers and understanding the risk percentage of pancreatic cancer by analysing individual’s gene make up and family history.

Risk Factors of Pancreatic Cancer

Some of the risk factors are as follows:

  • Smoking
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Chronic pancreatitis (Long-term inflammation of the pancreas)
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Physical Inactivity
  • Age (seen in older people, over the age of 65)
  • Gender (men are more likely to get than women)
  • Poor diet (more of red and processed meat, saturated fats and sugary drinks are may increase the risk)
  • Family history of pancreatic cancer
  • Workplace exposure to certain chemicals
  • Infections of the stomach (ulcer-causing bacteria Helicobacter pylori)
  • Hepatitis B infection

Common genes responsible for Pancreatic Cancer

Some of the genes mainly associated with pancreatic cancer are:

  • KRAS2 gene
  • p16/CDKN2A gene
  • TP53 gene
  • SMAD4/DPC4 gene

Assessment of Risk of Pancreatic Cancer

Assessment of cancer risk in individuals with higher risk factors as mentioned above. Some of the tests an individual can take to know the possibility of cancer are:

  1. Detailed family history
  2. Personal history
  3. Possible screening tests include: Tests like endoscopic ultrasound or MRI scan are performed in people who have a family history of pancreatic cancer or a genetic syndrome that increases the risk of cancer.
  4. Genetic testing to check for gene defects/genetic alterations

Dizziness or lightheadedness, or unsteadiness

Nausea

Vomiting

Headache

FAQ's :

Inherited gene changes can pass from one generation to another. Some of the examples of genetic syndromes that can cause pancreatic cancer are:
•   Hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome
•   Hereditary breast cancer
•   Familial atypical multiple mole melanoma (FAMMM) syndrome
•   Familial pancreatitis
•   Lynch syndrome
•   Peutz-Jeghers syndrome

Genetic testing can detect the genes that cause the genetic syndromes. This helps in early treatment measures that can be taken to alter and prevent the state of the upcoming disease.

Only 10% of the pancreatic cancers are hereditary. This means that only one in every 10 people has a chance of carrying inherited gene defect/gene alterations that increase the risk of developing the disease.

Yes, a person can acquire gene mutations during their lifetime, rather than inherited syndromes. This depends on their exposure to certain chemicals used in dry cleaning, and lifestyle habits such as diet, physical activity.

References:

  1. Pancreatic cancer. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pancreatic-cancer/symptoms-causes/syc-20355421 Accessed on 04-06-2022
  1. Pancreatic cancer. Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/15806-pancreatic-cancer Accessed on 04-06-2022
  1. What is Pancreatic Cancer? American Cancer Society. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/pancreatic-cancer/about/what-is-pancreatic-cancer.html Accessed on 04-06-2022
  1. Types of Pancreatic Cancer. Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. https://www.pancan.org/facing-pancreatic-cancer/about-pancreatic-cancer/types-of-pancreatic-cancer/ Accessed on 04-06-2022
  1. Pancreatic Cancer Risk Factors. American Cancer Society. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/pancreatic-cancer/causes-risks-prevention/risk-factors.html Accessed on 04-06-2022
  1. An epidemiological review of pancreatic cancer with special reference to India. Indian Journal of Medical Sciences. https://ijmsweb.com/an-epidemiological-review-of-pancreatic-cancer-with-special-reference-to-india/ Accessed on 04-06-2022

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