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MRI As Screening Tool for High Risk Pancreatic Cancer


Using MRI to screen patients at high risk of developing pancreatic cancer is effective in detecting early cancers.

Magnetic resonance imaging screening is an effective tool for detecting early pancreatic cancer among people with high risk of developing the disease, according to a study published in JAMA Surgery.

Researchers from Sweden undertook a prospective observational study to determine the feasibility of an MRI screening protocol to detect potential precancerous or early cancers among patients at high risk of pancreatic cancer.

Sixteen men and 24 women (mean age 49.9) participated in the study between January 1, 2010, and January 31, 2013. Aside from family history of pancreatic cancer, the patients were investigated for the most common genetic mutations associated with pancreatic cancer before undergoing MRI.

Number of patients
5 relatives with pancreatic cancer
2 (5%)
4 relatives with pancreatic cancer
4 (12.5%)
3 relatives with pancreatic cancer
17 (42.5%)
2 relatives with pancreatic cancer
14 (35%)
1 relative with pancreatic cancer
2 (5%)
p16 mutation
4 (10%)
BRCA2 mutation
3 (7.5%)
BRCA1 mutation
1 (2.5%)










The MRI imaging revealed pancreatic lesions in 16 patients (40%): intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasia in 14 patients (35%) and pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma in two patients (5%). Five patients (12.5%) required surgery (three for pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma and two for intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasia). The remaining 35 patients were kept under surveillance.

The authors concluded that although the study time was short, the surveillance program was effective, detecting lesions in 40% of the study’s subjects. “An MRI-based protocol for the surveillance of individuals at risk for developing pancreatic cancer seems to detect cancer or premalignant lesions with good accuracy,” they wrote. “The exclusive use of MRI can reduce costs, increase availability and guarantee the safety of the individuals under surveillance compared with protocols that are based on more aggressive methods. However, because of the small number of patients and the divergent results, this study did not allow evaluation of the efficacy of MRI as a single screening modality.”

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