Peggy Crook, 73, of Marlton, New Jersey, has a family history of cancer, but because she had no symptoms, she was surprised when she was diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas.
"I was terrified because I knew it was probably one of the worst cancers you can have," she said.
She's right. The five-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer is under 10-percent. So doctors at Jefferson University Hospital are trying to change that. Doctor Charles Yeo helped start a pancreas tumor registry. It'll help researchers study how a person's family genes can affect their risk.
"There's no question that somewhere between seven- to 20-percent of pancreas cancers have a clear genetic familiar link and we don't fully understand that whole group," Dr. Yeo said.
Peggy carries the BRCA2 gene. It's known to increase the risk for breast cancer which she also got years ago. Her daughter Laura also has that gene and is also now battling breast cancer.
Dr. Yeo said what many people don't realize is the BRCA2 gene also increases the odds for pancreatic cancer. The registry hopes to identify other genes that put people at risk.
Peggy said, "This tumor registry is wonderful because as they do research, they're going to be able to alert people ahead of time that they are at risk."
Peggy is lucky. Although her cancer was caught early, it was found early. She had surgery, chemo and radiation. That was two years ago. "I feel I was blessed by God," she said.
Knowing the family's history helped Laura find her breast cancer early. She recommends everyone to learn has much as you can about your family's medical history and join the new registry if it includes pancreatic cancer.
"It can save your life, it absolutely saved mine," she said.
The registry is looking for pancreatic cancer patients and their family members. Even if you've had someone in your family die of the cancer, your information can still help. To find out more about the registry: JeffersonHospital.org/pancreasregistry