Screening for pancreatic cancer in a high-risk cohort: an eight-year experience

J Gastrointest Surg. 2012 Apr;16(4):771-83. doi: 10.1007/s11605-011-1781-6. Epub 2011 Nov 30.


Background: Pancreatic adenocarcinoma is the fourth leading cause of cancer death.

Methods: A prospective cohort study was undertaken between 2003 and 2011 at a tertiary care centre in Toronto, Canada. Two hundred and sixty-two subjects were enrolled based on an elevated estimated lifetime risk for pancreatic cancer due to known genetic mutations and/or cancer family history. Subjects underwent annual magnetic resonance imaging, followed by additional investigations if abnormal findings were detected. Evidence of malignancy or suspicious macroscopic abnormalities prompted referral for surgical intervention.

Results: Average length of follow-up was 4.2 years, during which 84/262 (32%) subjects demonstrated pancreatic abnormalities. Three participants developed pancreatic adenocarcinoma (one 1.5-cm tumor was resected but recurred, while the other two subjects developed metastatic cancer), and a fourth participant developed a pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor that was resected. Fifteen subjects had radiologic evidence of branch-duct intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasms, of which two underwent surgical resection. Sixty-five subjects had simple pancreatic cysts that have remained stable.

Conclusion: Magnetic resonance imaging can detect small pancreatic tumors and cystic lesions, but further improvement in sensitivity is needed. An understanding of the natural history of pre-invasive lesions in members of high-risk families is necessary for developing a more effective screening program.

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / diagnosis*
  • Adenocarcinoma / genetics
  • Adenocarcinoma / surgery
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Canada
  • Early Detection of Cancer*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuroendocrine Tumors / diagnosis*
  • Neuroendocrine Tumors / surgery
  • Pancreatic Cyst / diagnosis
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / genetics
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / surgery
  • Prospective Studies
  • Young Adult