Pancreatic Cancer: Reducing Your Risks

At high risk? Look into screening.

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What you need to know

The pancreas is an organ behind the stomach and in front of the spine. It puts out enzymes to help digest food and hormones to help control blood sugar levels. It is not known how to prevent pancreatic cancer. However, if you are at increased risk due to your family history or other risk factors, there are tests that can detect the cancer early.

Reducing your risk

Unhealthy lifestyle choices like poor eating habits, smoking and substance abuse can contribute to an increased risk of pancreatic cancer. Exposure of certain chemicals, especially those used in dry cleaning and metal working industries, can also elevate risk.

Here are some risk factors that can make a person more likely to develop the disease:

  • A family history of two or more close family members with pancreatic cancer
  • Certain gene mutations 
  • Diabetes
  • Chronic pancreatitis – long-term inflammation (swelling) of the pancreas. This is sometimes a risk for pancreatic cancer, but most people never develop pancreatic cancer.
  • Mucinous pancreatic cysts
  • Cirrhosis of the liver

Who should be screened

Medical experts don’t recommend screening for most people. If you have a family history of pancreatic cancer, you should discuss this with your doctor. 

The doctor may talk to you about:

Detecting cancer early is the best chance to treat it successfully.

Schedule your screening

If you have chronic pancreatitis with scarring or mucinous pancreatic cysts, talk with your doctor about a referral to Saad Jazrawi, M.D., medical director, Legacy Pancreatic Cancer Screening Program.