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Pancreatic Cancer Diagnosis

Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)
An ERCP can be used to make a pancreatic cancer diagnosis. In this procedure, doctors pass an endoscope through the patient's mouth and stomach, down into the first part of the small intestine. The doctor will then slip a smaller tube (catheter) through the endoscope into the bile ducts and pancreatic ducts. After injecting dye through the catheter into the ducts, the doctor will take x-ray pictures, which will show whether the ducts are narrowed or blocked by a tumor or other condition.
Percutaneous Transhepatic Cholangiography (PTC)
A PTC can be used for diagnosing pancreatic cancer. Doctors will inject a dye through a thin needle that is inserted through the skin into the liver. Unless there is a blockage, the dye should move freely through the bile ducts. The dye will make the bile ducts show up on x-ray pictures, and the pictures will show whether there is a blockage from a tumor or other condition.
In some cases, the doctor may remove tissue (biopsy) to help diagnose pancreatic cancer. A pathologist will then use a microscope to look for cancer cells in the tissue. The doctor may obtain tissue in several ways. One way to remove tissue is called fine-needle aspiration, in which the doctor inserts a needle into the pancreas to remove cells. During the fine-needle aspiration, the doctor will use an x-ray or ultrasound to guide the needle.
Other ways to remove tissue cells include:
  • An endoscopic ultrasound (EUS)
  • An endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP).


The doctor may also open the abdomen during an operation to remove tissue cells.

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