Pancreatic Cancer Prevention Program works to stop cancer in its tracks


MADISON, Wis. – UW Health’s pancreatic cancer prevention program works to stop the deadly disease.

The program, which began in 2020, identifies and monitors patients who are at increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer. By February, more than 1,000 patients were part of the program.

Pancreatic cancer is the second deadliest cancer behind lung cancer, so prevention literally saves lives.

“We needed a better way to identify pancreatic cancer earlier in people most at risk of developing it,” UW oncologist Dr. Rebecca Minter said in a statement. “Pancreatic cancer presents to patients too late for a surgical option about 75% of the time.”

Some factors that increase a patient’s risk of pancreatic cancer include genetics, family history, and certain types of cysts that can be found in the pancreas.

“These cysts can be identified via an MRI or CT scan, even if those scans are done for another purpose,” Minter said. “Our colleagues in radiology refer patients with these accidentally identified cysts to the program so that we can screen them and monitor changes, ideally preventing cancer or detecting it early.”

The researchers hope to make the screening process less invasive in the future. But for now, the best way to prevent pancreatic cancer is to catch it before it shows symptoms.

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