How is pancreatic cancer diagnosed?

It is hard to detect pancreatic cancer in the early stages. This is because healthcare providers cannot feel the pancreas in a routine exam. If your provider suspects that you may have pancreatic cancer, they may order imaging tests to take pictures of the internal organs. An endoscopic ultrasound can also be done.

An endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) is a thin tube with a camera at the end that is passed through the mouth and into the stomach. The ultrasound probe at the end of the endoscope allows imaging of the pancreas through the stomach wall. If necessary, an ultrasound-guided biopsy (tissue sample) from the pancreas can be obtained during the procedure.

A blood test can find a substance called a tumor marker. For pancreatic cancer, high levels of something called CA 19-9 might indicate a tumor.

Everyone who is newly diagnosed with pancreatic cancer should talk to their doctor about doing genetic counseling and testing to see if there is a hereditary reason they developed pancreatic cancer. This is based on recommendations from two of the largest cancer organizations, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) and the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).

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