Approximately 10 to 15 percent of people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer will have a positive family history of the disease. Fortunately, the role of genetic testing is expanding rapidly in pancreatic cancer treatment and in identifying those at high risk. It’s important to identify at risk individuals so that specific genetic mutations can be targeted with chemotherapy and family members can begin screening much earlier and make appropriate lifestyle decisions.
National Comprehensive Cancer Network guidelines recommend that every person diagnosed with pancreatic cancer should be offered genetic counseling, regardless of whether or not they have a strong family history of the disease. The very detailed personal and family medical history gathered can help gauge the degree of suspicion about a hereditary cancer or if the cancer is due to an underlying genetic mutation that was present at birth.
Although some people are hesitant to undergo genetic testing, it can be helpful – both clinically and emotionally – to better understand the condition and make potentially lifesaving decisions about surveillance, early detection and treatment options.