Pancreatic Cancer Diagnosis
is no systematic screening for pancreatic cancer. Your doctor will collect samples of blood; perform medical
imaging techniques, including ultrasound, CT scan, MRI, endoscopy, endoscopic ultrasonography and percutaneous
transhepatic cholangiography (PTHC or PTC). However, to confirm the diagnosis with certainty, a biopsy is also
Blood tests - Your doctor may recommend a sampling of your blood to
detect anomalies and the presence of cancerous signs in the pancreas. Certain biomarkers levels such as antigen
CA19.9 are increased in most cases of large tumors in the liver and pancreas. It is an important examination in
the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer; however, CA19.9 is not sensitive for detecting small tumors. In addition it
is not completely reliable; its elevation may be due to a benign but not malignant tumor. CA19-9 can be realized
before, during or/and after the treatment.
Ultrasound - this medical imaging technique uses painless
high-frequency sound waves to visualize various organs in your body including pancreas. It involves applying an
ultrasound sensor (transducer) on your upper abdomen in order to obtain images of the pancreas. The transducer
emits ultrasonic through the tissues of the pancreas and are returned as an echo. The result is then collected
and analyzed by a computer system that transmits a live image on a video screen.
Ct scan - a scanner is the use of x-rays to create images of your
internal organs. It can detect abnormalities not visible on standard x-ray and ultrasound. The CT scan allows
not only to confirm the presence of the tumor but also to highlight lymph nodes or liver
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
- an MRI with injection of contrast allows
your physician to visualize organs of the inside of your body. In the case of a pancreatic cancer diagnosis,
it can analyze the structure of your pancreas, to search for abnormalities, inflammation, and highlight the
presence of the tumor. In addition, the MRI can help your doctor to know the exact size and extent of the
Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography
(ERCP) – with this imaging technique, your doctor can see inside your stomach
and duodenum, and possibly detect diseases; it combines the use of endoscopy and fluoroscopy. ERCP is used to
diagnose and treat certain problems of the liver, gallbladder, bile ducts, and pancreas: gallstones,
inflammatory tissues and cancer. During the procedure, your doctor injects dyes into the ducts in the biliary
tract and pancreas so they can be visible on x-rays.
Endoscopic ultrasound - an endoscopic ultrasound is an exploration of the
digestive system that combines endoscopy and ultrasound; this exam is very important in cases of small-size
pancreatic tumor. During the procedure, a miniaturized ultrasound probe - attached to the end of a flexible
endoscope - is positioned near the body to examine which allows your doctor to search or explore lesions in the
gastrointestinal tract or adjacent organs including the pancreas. Endoscopic ultrasound also allows, when it is
appropriate, puncture to the tumor to obtain sample for lab analysis (biopsy).
Percutaneous transhepatic cholangiography (PTHC or
PTC) - PTC is a radiological
technique often performed to examine the anatomy of the biliary tract. During the exam, your doctor injects a
contrast agent (dye) into the bile in the liver. Afterwards, a special X-ray machine called fluoroscopy is used
to track the travel of the dye. With a PTC, your physician can determine whether there is a blockage in the
liver or the bile ducts.
Biopsy - even if the other diagnostic techniques have revealed
the cancer, a biopsy is usually required to confirm the diagnosis with certainty. A biopsy of the pancreas is to
remove cells or pancreatic tissue to examine under a microscope. There are many types of biopsies; the type used
depends on where the tumor is located. However, whatever the method used, it must be done carefully so it does
not promote the spread of cancer cells.
Pancreatic Cancer Stages