How is Pancreatic Cancer Detected?

In its early stages, pancreatic cancer usually does not cause symptoms. When symptoms occur, the cancer is often advanced. Patients may experience jaundice, pain and weight loss. A physical exam and blood tests may be used in the initial diagnosis, but blood tests alone cannot confirm pancreatic cancer. Computed tomography (CT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, ultrasound and positron emission tomography-CT (PET-CT) scans may be used to aid in the diagnosis. A biopsy may be needed to determine the nature of the cancer cells in patients who are not surgical candidates. Doctors then determine the “stage” – or extent of the disease – by establishing how big the tumor is and how much it has spread.3