Sydney East Pancreatic Centre

Genetic Counselling

Clinical genetics

Is pancreatic cancer genetic?

90% of pancreatic cancers are not inherited and these are termed sporadic.  There are genetic changes in the cells called somatic mutations.  These somatic mutations are developed in life and are not passed on to your children

10% of pancreatic canceres are due to inheritied gene muattions that can pass from one generation to the next.  These are also called germ-line mutations.  However, just because there is an inherited gene, this doesn’t necessarily mean that someone with that gene will develop pancreatic cancer. Often, the cause of pancreatic cancer is not known.

Does pancreatic cancer run in families?

Pancreatic cancer may run in the family and/or may be linked with genetic conditions that increase the risk of many types of cancer. This is called familial pancreatic cancer.  Your doctor will ask you if other members of your family have had pancreatic or other cancers and at what age they developed them.

I have a family member who has or had pancreatic cancer, Am I at risk of developing pancreatic cancer?

You and your family may be at an increased risk if 2 or more first-degree relatives (mother, father, brother, sister) have had pancreatic cancer.  You may also be at risk if at least 3 members of the extended family have been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

I have a genetic condition, am I at risk of pancreatic cancer?

People who have certain, rare, genetic conditions or their familes have a significantly increased risk of pancreatic cancer, as well as other types of cancer.

These include the following:

Hereditary pancreatitis (HP), which is a condition associated with recurrent pancreatitis and an increased risk of pancreatic cancer

Peutz-Jeghers syndrome (PJS)

Familial malignant melanoma and pancreatic cancer (FAMM-PC)

Hereditary breast and ovarian cancer (HBOC) syndrome

Lynch syndrome

Li-Fraumeni syndrome (LFS)

Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) 

What should I do if I believe that I am at higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer?

Consultation with a clinical genetics service is essential prior to conducting genetic testing.  A clinical geneticist can assess your risk of having a genetic condition or familial pancreatic cancer syndrome and then recommend testing if required.

Genetic testing can have implications for you and your family and you must be counselled to understand what the outcomes may mean for you and your family. 

In partnership with the Nelune Comprehensive Cancer Centre the doctors at Sydney Pancreatic will be implementing one of Australia’s first high risk pancreatic screening and surveillance clinics. 

What should happen if I have a genetic condition or higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer?

Patients with a greater that 10% lifetime risk of pancreatic cancer should undergo screening using medical imaging tests to check for the early development of pancreatic cancer.  Patients should only undergo screening after consultation with a pancreatic specialist or clinical geneticist.

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Randwick NSW 2031