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Health Spotlight: Pancreatic cancer blood test

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) —  About 64,000 Americans will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this year.

Pancreatic cancer grows silently with very few symptoms. Doctors often don’t catch it until it’s in the late stage, making treatment very difficult. But now, a new test designed to detect markers in the blood is accurately predicting which patients might be developing the disease. Meaning they can have potentially life-saving treatment.

Nancy Perez knows the pancreas all too well. Pancreatic cancer killed her grandmother, her uncle, and her mother. “When my mother got diagnosed, she had six months to live.”

Perez’s aunt was diagnosed and died two years after her mother.

“I’m approaching my sixties and that’s when my mom was diagnosed and my aunt, so, you know, I get nervous,” she said.

Because of her strong family history, Perez has had yearly screening tests, which can be time-consuming, and costly. Now, her doctor has recommended a new blood test – the IMMray PanCan-d test. The screening tool checks the serum in the blood for more than eight biomarkers, including the CA-19 9 test, which is often used in pancreatic cancer detection.

Dr. Rosario Ligresti from Hackensack University Medical Center said, “When they combine those eight biomarkers plus CA19-9, they arrived at a test that can detect pancreas cancer at stage one. So, very early-stage pancreas cancer, 93% of the time.”

If the blood test results are high, Ligresti says patients will be referred for additional screening. If doctors catch early-stage cancer, patients can be candidates for surgery, which is the only potential cure.

“Which in my opinion, having done this a very long time is in fact a game changer,” he said.

Perez said, “They sent the blood work out, and I think within a week, Dr. Ligresti called me and said I was negative.”

Doctors say diagnosing pancreatic cancer at stage one increases the five-year survival rate to about 49%. The test is part of a clinical trial and is not yet FDA-approved. Right now, the test is not covered by insurance and the out-of-pocket cost is about one thousand dollars, but Ligresti says the test should be done every year and if the FDA approves this blood test, insurance companies should begin to cover it.

This story was created from a script aired on WISH-TV.