How to Diagnose Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer generally affects the abdomen tissues lying behind the lower part of the stomach. By the time, it gradually affects the nearby tissues and organs. Pancreatic cancer can be easily detected and diagnose in early stages.

Picture of a notepad with the diagnosis as pancreatic cancer

If you’re a patient or relatives of patients with pancreatic cancer and desire to know how doctors diagnose pancreatic cancer, here you go in detail. Doctors may go through several procedures to diagnose pancreatic cancer:

General Tests:

Physical Examination:

Doctors take all sorts of physical test to diagnose the disease and other related diseases caused by pancreatic cancer. They examine the eyes, skin and taste buds. In case these are yellow, then it may the evidence of jaundice which may lead to forming a tumor. In many cases, patients with pancreatic cancer don’t have jaundice.

Blood Test:

Blood testing is also included in the process of diagnosis of pancreatic cancer in order to test the level of proteins, sugar etc. A specific type of protein which causes to make a tumor by the pancreatic cancer cells can also be detected through the blood test. But in many cases, it may not reliable. It may be done before, during or after the treatment to check the levels.

Image Tests:

These tests assist the cancer specialist in finding out cancer affected part of the internal abdomen as well as to test the stage of pancreatic cancer. The disease not necessarily is the cause of tumor, therefore sometimes it becomes harder and harder to see on imaging tests.

Computed Tomography (CT) Scan:

As a very first step, doctors recommend you for CT scans, MRI, Ultrasound, and PET (positron emission tomography) scans. This helps them in testing your internal abdomen organs including the pancreas. These technologies are really beneficial for doctors to clearly identify the stage of pancreatic cancer as well as an affected region of pancreatic cancer to diagnose.


Ultrasound creates pictures of the internal abdomen by using sound waves. Two types of devices are used in this process to diagnose pancreatic cancer- Trans-abdominal Ultrasound and Endoscopic Ultrasound.

  • Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS):

Patients also diagnosed with endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) to create images of the pancreas from internal of your abdomen. In this process, the EUS device is passed through a thin endoscope via esophagus into the stomach for the sake of collecting images of the abdomen including the pancreas.

  • Trans-abdominal Ultrasound:

On the other hand, Trans-abdominal Ultrasound device is applied outside the pancreas and create images of the pancreas and other internal organs.


In this process, the doctors go through the laboratory testing. They remove a small sample of tissue for testing under the microscope. They may get this tissue from your pancreas with the help of a fine needle aspiration. Or they can remove the tissue during the endoscopic ultrasound with the help of special tools to be inserted into the pancreas.


Angiography is an X-ray test which is done after a small amount of contrast dye is directed into an artery. This test identifies and confirms the affected area where the blood flow is blocked or compressed due to a tumor. Abnormal blood vessels are also identified through angiography test. For confirming pancreatic cancer, cells grown through the walls of blood vessels can be used to effectively performed this test. Also, it assists the cancer specialist doctors to completely eliminate the damaged blood vessels and plan for the operation. This test can also be used to detect the pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors especially those that are too small in size to be detected through imaging tests. With angiography tests, pancreatic NETs can be effectively seen.

Somatostatin Receptor Scintigraphy (SRS)

Somatostatin Receptor Scintigraphy (SRS) test or OctreoScan test is used to detect neuroendocrine tumors. In this test a radioactive substance called octreotide which has a hormone-like structure is introduced into a vein and circulates through the blood. Octreotide connects with the various sorts of tumor cells. A special type of camera can also be used even after the several hours of injection. The camera capture all the spots where radioactivity takes place.

After diagnosis:

Once the diagnostic tests confirm the presence of pancreatic cancer, the doctor starts the treatment according to the stage of the disease. For most patients, elimination of pancreatic cancer cells is the primary objective but in case that is not possible, doctors focus on improving the patient’s quality of life.

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