Endoscopic scans for pancreatic cancer
Endoscopic scans can show blockages or inflammation in the common bile duct, stomach and duodenum.
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They are done using an endoscope, a long, flexible tube with a light and small camera on the end, that is passed down your throat into your digestive tract. This is also called an endoscopy. It will usually be done as day surgery by a specialist called a gastroenterologist.
You will be asked not to eat or drink (fast) for six hours before an endoscopy. The doctor will give you a sedative so you are as relaxed and comfortable as possible. Because of the sedative, you shouldn’t drive or operate machinery until the next day.
Having an endoscopic scan has some risks, including infection, bleeding and inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis). These risks are uncommon. Your doctor will explain these risks before asking you to agree (consent) to the procedure.
During these scans, the doctor can also take a tissue or fluid sample to help with the diagnosis. This is called a biopsy.
There are two main types of endoscopic scans:
EUS – An EUS (endoscopic ultrasound) uses an endoscope with an ultrasound probe (transducer) attached. The endoscope is passed through your mouth into the small bowel. The transducer makes soundwaves that create detailed pictures of the pancreas and ducts. This helps to locate small tumours and shows if the cancer has spread into nearby tissue.
ERCP – The endoscopic scan known as an ERCP (endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography) is used to take an x-ray of the common bile duct and pancreatic duct. The doctor uses the endoscope to guide a catheter into the bile duct and insert a small amount of dye. The x-ray images show blockages or narrowing that might be caused by cancer. ERCP may also be used to put a thin plastic or metal tube (stent) into the bile duct to keep it open.
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Dr Lorraine Chantrill, Head of Department, Medical Oncology, Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District, NSW; Marion Bamblett, Nurse Unit Manager, Cancer Centre, Fiona Stanley Hospital, WA; Prof Katherine Clark, Clinical Director of Palliative Care, Northern Sydney Local Health District Cancer and Palliative Care Network, and Conjoint Professor, Northern Clinical School, The University of Sydney, NSW; Lynda Dunstone, Consumer; Kate Graham, Accredited Practising Dietitian – Upper GI Dietitian, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Dr Gina Hesselberg, Radiation Oncologist, St George Hospital Cancer Centre, NSW; Dr Marni Nenke, Endocrinologist and Mary Overton Early Career Research Fellow, Royal Adelaide Hospital, SA; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; A/Prof Nicholas O’Rourke, Head of Hepatobiliary Surgery, Royal Brisbane Hospital and The University of Queensland, QLD; Rose Rocca, Senior Clinical Dietitian – Upper GI, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Gail Smith, Consumer. We also thank the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title.
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