Your Health: Testing for pancreatic cancer

Published: May. 2, 2023 at 5:27 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Pancreatic cancer grows silently with few symptoms.

Doctors often don’t catch it until it’s late stage, making treatment difficult, but a new test designed to detect markers in the blood is accurately predicting which patients may be developing the disease.

Nancy Perez knows the pancreas all too well. Pancreatic cancer killed her grandmother, her uncle and her mother.

“When my mother got diagnosed, she had six months to live,” Perez recalled.

Her aunt was diagnosed and died two years after her mother.

“I’m approaching my sixties and that’s when my mom was diagnosed and my aunt, so, you know, I get nervous,” Perez said.

Due to her strong family history, Perez has had yearly screening tests, which can be time-consuming and costly. Her doctor has recommended a new blood test, the IMMray PanCan-d. The screening tool checks the serum in the blood for more than eight biomarkers, including CA19-9, which is often used in pancreatic cancer detection.

“When they combine those eight biomarkers plus CA19-9, they arrived at a test that can detect pancreas cancer at stage one,” said Dr. Rosario Ligresti. “So, very early stage pancreas cancer, 93% of the time.”

If the blood test results are high, Ligresti said patients will be referred for additional screening. If doctors catch early-stage cancer, patients can be candidates for surgery, which is the only potential cure.

Doctors said diagnosing pancreatic cancer at stage one increases the five-year survival rate to about 49%. The test is part of a clinical trial and is not yet FDA-approved.

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