Can I have a genetic test for pancreatic cancer?
Genetic tests look for faults in the few genes that we know can be linked to familial pancreatic cancer. If you have a family history of pancreatic cancer, genetic testing may be available. 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.
People with familial pancreatic cancer, or a genetic condition in the family that’s linked to an increased risk of pancreatic cancer, should first be offered a genetic consultation. If appropriate, they will then be offered genetic testing. The genetic consultation will be 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 people for what it means if they find out they have a faulty gene that greatly increases their risk of pancreatic cancer.
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.
The genetics clinic can then 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 an increased risk and if a test is appropriate
- told you are at increased 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.
If you are offered a genetic test, after you’ve talked to a specialist it’s up to you to decide whether or not 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.