Q. My husband, his mother, and her brother died of pancreatic cancer. My daughter has had breast cancer. I also have two sons, one with Crohn's disease and one with type 2 diabetes. What protocol should we be following?

A.

Pancreatic cancer is often difficult to diagnose. That’s because of where it is located in the body (right in the middle of the body) and the way it often presents (generalized pain either in the belly or the back, right or left side). There is no distinct cause for pancreatic cause but there are findings that certain risk factors increase the likelihood of the disease.

According to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCan) strong family history is one of the risk factors for pancreatic cancer as well as a family history of breast cancer and diabetes. Make sure you are detailed and clear with your health care providers when giving your family health history and ask about getting a blood test called CA19-9 as a baseline. When the test is trending upwards, it might mean that there is some pancreatic cancer activity in the body. You might also consider pursuing genetic testing.

Again, it is important for you and your family members to discuss your specific family history (including all illnesses) with your health care providers so that you will know what protocol is best to follow.

Learn more about The Genetics of Pancreatic Cancer from Cancer.Net.