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What Can I Do If I’m At Risk for Pancreatic Cancer?

no smoking
Not smoking will reduce your risk of cancer of the pancreas, as well as other types of cancer.

There is no sure way to prevent pancreatic cancer. But knowing the risk factors is a good first step toward reducing your risk of pancreatic cancer. Use your risk factors to plan a course of action. Also, let your doctor know if you have a family history of pancreatic cancer. And, know the symptoms of pancreatic cancer. If you notice any, see your doctor right away.

Make healthy lifestyle choices

Taking action to try to lower your risk for pancreatic cancer may also lower your risk for other cancers. For example, not smoking may also lower your risk for lung, esophageal, stomach, head, neck, bladder, and some other cancers.

Talk with your doctor or nurse about things you can do that may lower your risk for pancreatic or other cancers. Here are some actions they may suggest: 

  • Don't smoke. If you do smoke, stop.

  • Lower the red and processed meat in your diet.

  • Reduce the amount of charred, well-done meats in your diet. 

  • Eat more fruits and vegetables.

  • Avoid too much weight gain and exercise regularly.

Be safe on the job

Exposure to certain chemicals may raise your risk of pancreatic cancer. If you work with chemicals often, be sure to follow guidelines for safe use. Your employer or union safety director can give you guidelines for safe use of chemicals. You can also check with these organizations.

  • Call the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, at 800-232-4636, or check the website.

  • Call the Occupational Safety and Health Administration at 800-321-6742. Or check the website.

Can I get checked for pancreatic cancer before I have symptoms?

Screening tests check for disease in people who don’t have symptoms. There are no recommended screening tests for pancreatic cancer.

Pancreatic cancer has been called a “silent” disease. This is because it does not have many symptoms until the cancer has spread to other organs. The early symptoms may be very vague and not specific to the pancreas (such as back pain). For that reason, it takes a while for many people with pancreatic cancer to get a diagnosis.

If you have symptoms that might be related to pancreatic cancer, your doctor will do a series of tests to see if the symptoms are from cancer or from something else.

Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Online Medical Reviewer: Welch, Annette, MNS, OCN
Last Review Date: 3/25/2014
© 2013 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare provider's instructions.