Pancreatic Cancer Diagnosis
In order to diagnose pancreatic cancer, a doctor will usually conduct a physical exam, review the patient's medical history, and order certain tests and procedures. In many cases, a diagnosis can be difficult to make because the disease often causes no early symptoms, and the pancreas is hidden behind other organs. Tests often used to make a diagnosis include lab tests, CT scans, and ultrasounds.
Pancreatic cancer is difficult to detect and diagnose for the following reasons:
- There are usually no noticeable signs or symptoms of the disease in the early stages of pancreatic cancer
- The signs of pancreatic cancer, when present, are similar to those of many other illnesses
- The pancreas is hidden behind other organs (such as the stomach, small intestine, liver, gallbladder, spleen, and bile ducts).
If a person has possible symptoms of pancreatic cancer, doctors will usually perform a physical exam, ask about the patient's personal and family medical history, and recommend additional tests and procedures.
During the physical exam, the doctor will typically:
- Check for signs of disease, such as lumps or anything else that seems unusual
- Check for ascites (an abnormal buildup of fluid in the abdomen)
- Examine the skin and the eyes for signs of jaundice.
The medical history will entail an assessment of the patient's health habits, medical conditions, and a family history of any medical conditions, past illnesses, and treatments.