How is pancreatic cancer diagnosed?

Patients with symptoms that suggest they have pancreatic cancer need quick investigation, usually by a CT scan and early referral to a specialist unit for other investigations.

These investigations and tests will help your specialist team diagnose, treat and monitor your condition. These tests are referred to as “staging investigations”. The results of these tests will provide information about the abnormal area in your pancreas and your general health. Your specialist team will also want to get to know you and your family so they can make the most appropriate treatment choice for you.

Click here for more information on the stages of pancreatic cancer.

There are two aspects to “staging” investigations.  Some are designed to find out as much as possible about the tumour itself, and some are designed to assess your general fitness. There are many treatment options and your doctors will be trying to work out which is best for you, taking into account all of the information.  These decisions are usually taken at a multidisciplinary team (MDT) meeting.

Multidisciplinary meeting (MDT)

Multi-Disciplinary TeamOnce all your investigations have been carried out, your specialist team will have a meeting to discuss the results of all your tests with their colleagues.  This will include doctors from the X-ray, pathology and oncology (cancer) departments. This means that many doctors will use their expert knowledge to make a decision about your diagnosis and treatment.  Following this discussion, they will meet with you and your family, and together decide on the most appropriate form of treatment for you.

Don’t be afraid to ask someone in your specialist team if anything is not clear or you would like more information.

More about how pancreatic cancer is diagnosed:

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Information Product No. PCA0011v1 | Published: 03/01/2014 | Last Updated: 03/03/2017 | Next Review Due: 03/01/2017