Pancreatic cancer screening: state of the art

Expert Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2009 Feb;3(1):89-96. doi: 10.1586/17474124.3.1.89.


Pancreatic cancer is a devastating disease with a median survival of approximately 6 months after diagnosis. Many factors are associated with a worse outcome; examples include late diagnosis, low resection rate, aggressive tumor behavior and a lack of an effective chemotherapy regimen. Owing to the low prevalence of pancreatic cancer relative to the diagnostic accuracy of present detection methods and the absence of promising treatment modalities, even in early stages, it is currently neither advisable nor cost effective to screen the general population. Efforts are focused on early screening of selected high-risk-cohorts, who account for approximately 10% of patients with pancreatic cancer. These include patients with chronic pancreatitis, individuals with a family history of pancreatic cancer, patients with hereditary pancreatitis, Peutz-Jeghers syndrome, cystic fibrosis or familial atypical multiple mole melanoma. At present, a multimodal-screening approach of endoscopic ultrasound, computed tomography and endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography appears to be the most effective method to screen for pancreatic cancer in high-risk patients. Continued efforts are needed to elucidate effective testing to identify patients with nonhereditary risk factors who will benefit from screening protocols. A combined approach of serum markers, genetic markers and specific imaging studies may prove to be the future of pancreatic screening.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biopsy, Fine-Needle
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Endosonography
  • Genetic Testing
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening / economics
  • Mass Screening / trends*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / blood
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / genetics
  • Serologic Tests