Which tests are performed in the workup of pancreatic cancer?

Updated: Oct 02, 2020
  • Author: Tomislav Dragovich, MD, PhD; Chief Editor: N Joseph Espat, MD, MS, FACS  more...
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The laboratory findings in patients with pancreatic cancer are usually nonspecific. However, a number of continually evolving imaging modalities are available to help diagnose pancreatic carcinoma in patients in whom the disease is suggested clinically. These include the following:

  • Computed tomography (CT)
  • Transcutaneous ultrasonography (TUS)
  • Endoscopic ultrasonography (EUS)
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)
  • Positron emission tomography (PET)

Which of these modalities is used at a particular institution may depend largely on the local availability of and expertise with the procedure, as well as local cancer protocols. Additional considerations in the choice of diagnostic modality include the following:

  • Accuracy for providing staging information
  • Allowance for simultaneous collection of tissue samples for cytologic or histologic confirmation of the diagnosis
  • Capacity to facilitate therapeutic procedures, such as biliary stent placement or celiac neurolysis

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