Can I have a genetic test for pancreatic cancer?
People with familial pancreatic cancer may be referred to a specialist genetics clinic. If you have a genetic condition in the family that is linked to a higher risk of pancreatic cancer (family cancer syndrome), you may also be referred.
The genetics clinic will work out how likely it is that there is a faulty gene in the family. Depending on this risk assessment you may be:
- offered a genetic test if you do have a higher risk and if a test is appropriate
- told you have a higher risk but that genetic testing isn’t appropriate, based on your family history or because you have no living relative with pancreatic cancer who can be tested first
- told that you aren’t at any higher risk than the general population.
Genetic tests look for faults in the few genes that we know can be linked to familial pancreatic cancer. Testing is usually first offered to someone in the family who has developed cancer. If a genetic fault is found, relatives who don’t have cancer can be offered a blood test to look for the same genetic fault.
If you are referred to a genetics clinic, you should first be offered a genetic consultation with a genetic counsellor or genetics doctor. They will provide information about an inherited condition, and the risk of developing it or passing it on. This helps to prepare you for what it means if you find out you have a faulty gene that greatly increases your risk of pancreatic cancer.
If you are offered a genetic test after you have talked to a specialist, it is up to you to decide whether to have it. You can take as much time as you need to decide.
If the test shows that you have a fault in a gene that may cause pancreatic cancer, you should then be told about regular monitoring. This may be through the EUROPAC research study.
If you are referred to a genetics clinic it’s helpful to find out the following information beforehand:
- how everyone in the family is related to you and to each other
- how old each relative with pancreatic cancer is and their age when they were diagnosed
- what other cancers have been diagnosed in the family.