Like most cancers, pancreatic cancer develops slowly and in stages. Normal pancreas cells can transform into benign precursor lesions. These precursor lesions can – but not necessarily have to – change into malignant cells. These malignant cells can multiply, thereby growing into cancer.
Surveillance for pancreatic cancer aims to detect benign precursor lesions before they develop into cancer, or detect cancer in the earliest possible stage, in which curation is still possible.
Currently, there is no official guideline for surveillance for pancreatic cancer. Nevertheless, in identified high-risk individuals (persons with the highest inherited risk) surveillance is attempted. The most common strategy is regular imaging of the pancreas by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and/or endoscopic ultrasonography (ultrasound, performed during endoscopy of the stomach/duodenum). This strategy seems feasible, but still needs to be proven effective. Therefore, surveillance is only performed in the context of medical research and only in those individuals with the highest inherited risk.