Approximately 10% of pancreatic cancers are believed to have a familial basis. The familial aggregation of pancreatic cancers provides a unique opportunity to prevent the development of pancreatic cancer, to identify and treat precancerous lesions of the pancreas, and to advance our understanding of the genetic basis for the development of all forms of pancreatic cancer. After appropriate genetic counseling, individuals with a strong family history of pancreatic cancer can now be tested for inherited genetic alterations that are known to increase the risk of pancreatic cancer. These include germline BRCA2, STK11/LKB1, p16/CDKN2A and PRSS1 gene mutations. Individuals with one of these inherited genetic alterations and individuals with a strong family history of pancreatic cancer can be counseled on smoking cessation and possible dietary modifications. Selected individuals, even if they are asymptomatic, can be screened using a combination of endoscopic ultrasound and multidetector computed tomography. Patients found to have a mass lesion in the pancreas would then be candidates for surgical resection. The resection of noninvasive precancers will cure these lesions before they have the opportunity to spread and metastasize. Even with the best early detection efforts, some patients will still be diagnosed with an invasive cancer. Surgical resection of invasive pancreatic cancer is proven to be safe and can provide long-term survival in patients with small, node-negative, and margin-negative cancers. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are effective in some patients with invasive pancreatic cancer, but these therapies do not usually result in long-term cures. Individuals with a family history of pancreatic cancer may also choose to join a research study such as the National Familial Pancreas Tumor Registry.
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