Frequent detection of pancreatic lesions in asymptomatic high-risk individuals

Gastroenterology. 2012 Apr;142(4):796-804; quiz e14-5. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2012.01.005. Epub 2012 Jan 12.


Background & aims: The risk of pancreatic cancer is increased in patients with a strong family history of pancreatic cancer or a predisposing germline mutation. Screening can detect curable, noninvasive pancreatic neoplasms, but the optimal imaging approach is not known. We determined the baseline prevalence and characteristics of pancreatic abnormalities using 3 imaging tests to screen asymptomatic, high-risk individuals (HRIs).

Methods: We screened 225 asymptomatic adult HRIs at 5 academic US medical centers once, using computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and endoscopic ultrasonography (EUS). We compared results in a blinded, independent fashion.

Results: Ninety-two of 216 HRIs (42%) were found to have at least 1 pancreatic mass (84 cystic, 3 solid) or a dilated pancreatic duct (n = 5) by any of the imaging modalities. Fifty-one of the 84 HRIs with a cyst (60.7%) had multiple lesions, typically small (mean, 0.55 cm; range, 2-39 mm), in multiple locations. The prevalence of pancreatic lesions increased with age; they were detected in 14% of subjects younger than 50 years old, 34% of subjects 50-59 years old, and 53% of subjects 60-69 years old (P < .0001). CT, MRI, and EUS detected a pancreatic abnormality in 11%, 33.3%, and 42.6% of the HRIs, respectively. Among these abnormalities, proven or suspected neoplasms were identified in 85 HRIs (82 intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasms and 3 pancreatic endocrine tumors). Three of 5 HRIs who underwent pancreatic resection had high-grade dysplasia in less than 3 cm intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasms and in multiple intraepithelial neoplasias.

Conclusions: Screening of asymptomatic HRIs frequently detects small pancreatic cysts, including curable, noninvasive high-grade neoplasms. EUS and MRI detect pancreatic lesions better than CT.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Video-Audio Media

MeSH terms

  • Academic Medical Centers
  • Aged
  • Asymptomatic Diseases
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Diagnostic Imaging* / methods
  • Endosonography
  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Heredity
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Pancreatic Cyst / diagnosis*
  • Pancreatic Cyst / epidemiology
  • Pancreatic Cyst / genetics
  • Pancreatic Cyst / pathology
  • Pancreatic Cyst / surgery
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / genetics
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / surgery
  • Pedigree
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prevalence
  • Prognosis
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • United States / epidemiology