Uncontrolled and abnormal growth of cells in the pancreas can lead to pancreatic cancer. Healthcare professionals may use endoscopies to help diagnose pancreatic cancer.

According to the American Cancer Society, around 64,000 people in the United States develop pancreatic cancer each year. In addition, this type of cancer makes up around 3% of all cancer cases in the U.S. and 7% of overall deaths as a result of cancer.

Detecting pancreatic cancer early may improve a person’s outlook. Several different types of endoscopy can help healthcare professionals detect and diagnose pancreatic cancer. Endoscopic ultrasonography (EUS) is particularly useful for identifying tumors and disease stages.

This article explores how endoscopy can help detect pancreatic cancer. It also discusses how endoscopy works, different types of endoscopy, other diagnostic tests for pancreatic cancer, and when to speak with a doctor.

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During an endoscopy, a medical professional typically inserts an endoscope into an individual’s mouth. An endoscope is a thin, bendable tube with a small video camera and a light on the end. As it travels through the throat and into the small intestine, the camera provides images of the inside of a person’s body.

Certain kinds of endoscopy tests can help with pancreatic cancer diagnosis. For example, an EUS test uses an endoscope with a tiny ultrasound probe on it. This test may provide more accurate results than an abdominal ultrasound.

During an EUS test, doctors can position the endoscope close to the pancreas. This may help them identify small tumors or cysts that other imaging tests cannot detect.

An endoscopy may also involve taking samples of tissue within the pancreas. If an EUS test detects growths, a doctor may want to take a biopsy of these growths for testing. They can then use the endoscope to help take a tissue sample.

After a biopsy, laboratory tests can determine whether a tissue sample is cancerous. They may also be able to determine how advanced the cancer is.

Research suggests that EUS is an effective tool for diagnosing pancreatic cancer, with reports of 87–100% of EUS tests providing accurate diagnoses of this disease.

Additionally, endoscopy is typically a safe procedure. However, it does come with some risks. A person should speak with a doctor to learn more about the accuracy and safety of this procedure.

There are a number of different types of endoscopy tests for detecting pancreatic cancer. A healthcare professional may choose which type to use depending on the individual.


An EUS test uses an ultrasound probe that attaches to an endoscope. As this device travels through the body, it transmits ultrasound images of different areas. An EUS can detect changes in the pancreas structure that may indicate cancer. It can also identify abnormal growths or tumors.

Most people who undergo EUS do not experience negative side effects. Studies suggest that only 1.1%–3% of these individuals experience negative effects from EUS testing.

EUS-guided fine-needle aspiration (EUS-FNA)

In certain cases, doctors may want to take a tissue sample from the pancreas. One effective method for taking this sample is EUS-FNA.

During EUS-FNA, a doctor uses an EUS device to guide a needle through the body. With the help of EUS images, they direct this needle to the tissue site. They can then remove a small tissue sample from the pancreas for further testing.

Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)

ERCP is an imaging tool that can help diagnose and treat cancer in the pancreas and bile ducts. However, it is becoming less common as other imaging modalities improve.

During ERCP, healthcare professionals pass an endoscope down through the throat and into the first part of the small intestine. When the endoscope is in this area, a healthcare professional can see where the common bile duct empties into the small intestine, which they call the ampulla of Vater.

In addition to inserting the endoscope, a doctor may take X-rays of the pancreas and surrounding tissue to help show any narrowing or blockages in the ducts that pancreatic cancer may be causing. A healthcare professional can also remove cells for a biopsy by putting a small brush through the endoscope.

In addition to endoscopy, doctors use other diagnostic tests to detect and diagnose pancreatic cancer. These tests may include:

Learn more about how doctors test for pancreatic cancer.

Individuals with symptoms of pancreatic cancer should speak with a doctor to learn more about the diagnostic process.

In the early stages of pancreatic cancer, a person may not experience any symptoms. However, symptoms of this form of cancer include:

People experiencing any of these symptoms should speak with a medical professional, who can evaluate a person’s symptoms. They can help a person identify the cause of their symptoms and provide appropriate treatment.

Pancreatic cancer is a form of cancer that begins in the pancreas. Receiving an early diagnosis of this disease may help improve a person’s outlook.

Certain types of endoscopy can detect pancreatic cancer, such as EUS, EUS-FNA, and ERCP. These tests use an endoscope to take a closer look at the pancreas, which helps doctors identify unusual growths and take a tissue sample if necessary.

A person should speak with a doctor to learn more about endoscopy for pancreatic cancer or if they think they may be experiencing any symptoms of the condition.