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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.

An Introduction to Making a Pancreatic Cancer Diagnosis

Pancreatic cancer is difficult to detect and diagnose for the following reasons:
  • 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.

Physical Exam and Medical History

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.
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