There is a new blood test that promises a better chance of early detection of pancreatic cancer. This test, when used together with the current blood test prescribed, will also enable the screening of those at high risk for the disease. This combination of tests spots 70 percent of pancreatic cancers with a false-positive rate of less than 5 percent.

Diagnosis of pancreatic cancer is difficult for several reasons, top of which being that patients do not present with obvious symptoms early on. Its symptoms may resemble other diseases thus making it difficult to point out outright. The pancreas is also hidden behind the stomach and X-ray imaging may not easily catch it. This means that for many patients, the disease will have progressed to an advanced stage by the time they are finding out about it.

Pancreatic cancer is a dangerous disease and only 8.5 percent of patients live past five years. This makes these blood tests essential. This is how they work:

  • The tests measure the amount of sugars given off by pancreatic cancer cells. The current test checks the levels of CA-19-9 while the new test looks at sTRA. These sugars are produced by different subsets of pancreatic cancer.
  • The current test is used to confirm the presence of pancreatic cancer and finds about 40 percent of pancreatic cancers. It is also not used for screening for the ailment. This rate is almost half that of the two tests used together.
  • Better detection rates mean patients can be screened and early intervention can be prescribed so as to better treat the disease. This is bound to improve survival rates for patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

This combination test is great news for people at a high risk of developing pancreatic cancer. These include those with a history of pancreatic cancer in their family, those who developed type 2 diabetes later in their life, or those who previously had chronic pancreatitis or pancreatic cysts.