Pancreatic cancer develops from uncontrolled cell growth in the pancreas. Doctors may use an ultrasound to help detect pancreatic cancer as part of their diagnosis.
Symptoms of pancreatic cancer can be similar to the symptoms of other conditions. Symptoms may also not appear until the later stages. This can make it difficult for a doctor to diagnose pancreatic cancer.
Doctors can use a number of tests to help look for pancreatic cancer. One test that doctors use is an ultrasound.
This article looks at how ultrasound can help detect pancreatic cancer and what happens during an ultrasound. It also looks at other tests a medical professional may use to help diagnose pancreatic cancer.
Ultrasound tests are a type of imaging test clinicians
A clinician uses a small device called an ultrasound probe. This gives off high frequency sound waves.
These waves bounce off different structures inside the body and create echoes. The probe picks up these echoes and turns them into a detailed moving image. This can help a doctor see whether a tumor is present in a person’s pancreas.
Medical professionals typically use two types of ultrasounds for pancreatic cancer: abdominal ultrasound and endoscopic ultrasound.
A doctor may order an abdominal ultrasound to determine what is causing a person’s abdominal symptoms.
During this procedure, a clinician presses the ultrasound probe against the person’s abdomen to create an image of the pancreas.
During this test, the ultrasound probe sits on the tip of an endoscope, which is a thin tube that doctors pass through a person’s mouth to look inside the digestive tract.
When the probe is inside the digestive tract and close to the pancreas, it emits sound waves and creates an image.
If a person has signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer, a doctor may want to use an ultrasound to find the cause of these symptoms.
Symptoms of pancreatic cancer include:
- abdominal pain and back pain
- yellowing of the eyes and skin (jaundice)
- unexplained weight loss
- poor appetite
- enlarged liver, gallbladder, or both
- blood clots
What happens during an ultrasound can depend on whether a person receives an abdominal ultrasound or endoscopic ultrasound.
During an abdominal ultrasound, a clinician places a lubricating gel on the person’s abdomen. This allows the clinician to move the probe easily.
The clinician then places the ultrasound probe on the skin and moves it over the area where the person’s pancreas is to create an image of the organ.
During the ultrasound, a person will not feel anything other than the probe and the gel on their skin. The gel may be cold.
A person may have to remove some clothing and wear a hospital gown during the ultrasound.
Before an endoscopic ultrasound, a clinician may give the person a sedative to help them relax. They may also use a local anesthetic spray to numb the person’s throat.
The person undergoing the scan lies on their side. The clinician places the endoscope through the person’s mouth and down toward their stomach.
The endoscope has a light and an ultrasound probe on its end. Once the endoscope is in the right place near the pancreas, it emits the sound waves it uses to create the images.
A person may receive a mouth guard to help keep their mouth open and protect their teeth in case they bite the endoscope.
There are a number of other imaging tests a doctor can order to help detect pancreatic cancer. These
- CT scan: A CT scan uses data from X-rays to produce detailed images of the pancreas. A CT scan can also show if the cancer has spread to organs or lymph nodes near the pancreas.
- MRI: MRI scans use strong magnetic fields and radio waves to create detailed images of the pancreas.
- Cholangiopancreatography: A cholangiopancreatography procedure allows a doctor to look at the pancreatic ducts and bile ducts. They can use this test to see whether a pancreatic tumor is blocking these ducts.
- PET scan: A PET scan uses radioactive sugar that collects within cancer cells. A clinician then uses a special camera to create a picture of the areas of radioactivity in the body. This can help a doctor look for cancer cells and see whether a person’s pancreatic cancer has spread.
- Angiography: This is a type of X-ray that allows a doctor to look at blood vessels using a contrast dye. This can show whether tumors are blocking blood flow in certain blood vessels. This test can help a doctor see whether pancreatic cancer has grown through the walls of certain blood vessels.
A doctor may also order a blood test to help diagnose pancreatic cancer. There are a number of blood tests that can help a doctor do this.
A doctor could also order a biopsy to help diagnose pancreatic cancer. During a biopsy, a surgeon removes a small part of the tumor. The sample is sent to a lab where a medical professional examines the cells to see whether they are cancerous.
Here are some frequently asked questions about pancreatic cancer tests.
What is the best scan to detect pancreatic cancer?
A number of scans can detect pancreatic cancer. A
Researchers concluded that an endoscopic ultrasound was the most effective technique for diagnosing and staging pancreatic cancer.
Researchers stated endoscopic ultrasounds had an accuracy of 93.7%.
What can an ultrasound tell you about your pancreas?
An ultrasound of the pancreas can help a doctor diagnose pancreatic cancer.
It can also help
- tumors in the pancreas
- pancreas duct dilation
- cysts in the pancreas
Does an abdominal ultrasound check the pancreas?
A medical professional can use an abdominal ultrasound
Does pancreatic cancer show in blood tests?
A blood test alone may not be enough for a doctor to diagnose pancreatic cancer. However, it will help them decide whether a person requires further imaging tests to confirm their diagnosis.
Can a colonoscopy detect pancreatic cancer?
A colonoscopy is a procedure where a clinician inserts a small, flexible tube with an attached camera through a person’s rectum into their colon.
This procedure helps a doctor detect problems in a person’s lower gastrointestinal (GI) tract.
Because the pancreas is not located in the lower GI tract, a doctor cannot use a colonoscopy to detect pancreatic cancer.
Pancreatic cancer develops from uncontrolled cell growth in the pancreas. Doctors can use an ultrasound to help detect pancreatic cancer.
A doctor may use an abdominal ultrasound or an endoscopic ultrasound to detect the cancer. During an abdominal ultrasound, they place the ultrasound probe on the skin and move it over the person’s pancreas.
During an endoscopic ultrasound, the ultrasound probe sits on the tip of an endoscope. This is a thin tube that doctors pass through a person’s mouth to look inside the digestive tract.
Research suggest that an endoscopic ultrasound may be the most accurate imaging test for detecting pancreatic cancer.