Tests after diagnosis for pancreatic cancer

Doctor standing in front of a radiotherapy machine

You may have more tests after your diagnosis to find out:

  • How large is the cancer?
  • Where exactly is the cancer?
  • Has the cancer spread to any other parts of your body?

This is called staging. Staging tests for pancreatic cancer include:

CT scan of the pancreas / thorax / abdomen / pelvis

A type of X-ray that gives a detailed picture of the tissues inside your body.

Endoscopic ultrasound scan (EUS) 

An EUS is frequently used in the diagnosis of pancreatic cancers. This test uses an endoscope that has an ultrasound tip. A biopsy needle can be passed through the scope so that a sample of the tumour can be taken. This test is usually done as day case admission with intravenous (IV) sedation (sedation into a vein).

MRI pancreas scan

An MRI scan uses magnetic energy to build up a picture of the tissues inside your body. MRI scans are sometimes used to clarify any irregularity seen on a CT scan. During the scan you will lie inside a tunnel-like machine.

MRCP scan

This stands for magnetic resonance cholangiopancreaticography. It is an MRI scan that shows up the pancreatic duct, bile ducts and gallbladder in more detail. It is often helpful in planning treatment of jaundice due to a tumour. It takes about 20 minutes.

PET scan

A PET scan can show if the cancer has spread to other tissues and organs. A low dose of radioactive sugar is injected into your arm. An hour or so later you will have a scan.  The scan can show areas of cancer spread in your body. PET scans are not routinely used in pancreas cancer but are sometimes useful in staging the disease.

ERCP

ERCP stands for endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography. Your doctor passes a thin, flexible tube with a camera and a light down your throat and through your stomach. Here they can look at the inside of your pancreas, bile ducts and small bowel and check for any abnormal cells or blockages. They can also inject dye into the tissues to show them up on an X-ray.

PTC (percutaneous transhepatic cholangiography)

Similar to an ERCP, this test gives X-ray images of the pancreas/bile ducts and surrounding area.

Staging is important as it helps your medical team decide on the best treatment for your cancer. 

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