Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms, and health and family history. Your belly and the areas around it will be thoroughly checked. Your doctor will look for other causes of the problems you’re having.
You will need more tests if your doctor thinks you have problems with your pancreas. Tests can help find cancer or other problems, such as pancreatitis. These may be:
Diagnosis of pancreatic cancer is confirmed with a biopsy. A biopsy is done during an ERCP, laparoscopy, or through a fine needle aspiration (FNA). With FNA, a small needle is placed into the belly and into the pancreas. This will also help find out what type of cancer it is.
If pancreatic cancer is found, results from finished tests and new tests will help find out what stage it's in. The stage is based on how the tumor looks like during testing. It will help your doctors come up with ways to treat it. The stage of cancer is based on where the tumor is and how far it’s spread.
Tests that help with cancer stage are:
Pancreatic cancer is staged from 0-4:
Other methods can be used when planning treatment. The stages are based on whether the tumor can be taken out. These stages are:
Prognosis is the forecast of the likely course of a disease. It’s most often given as a percent of people with cancer who may survive over 5 or 10 years. This is an inexact way of getting this data. This is because the predictions are based on large groups of people who are in different stages of cancer. Doing it this way for one person isn’t perfect and somewhat flawed, but it’s the only method at hand.
Pancreatic cancer is often found in later stages. As a result, the number of people who survive for 5 years or more after it’s been found is very small, perhaps as low as 5%. About 21% of all those with pancreatic cancer survive for a year after diagnosis.
De La Cruz MD, Young AP, Ruffin MT. Diagnosis and management of pancreatic cancer. Am Fam Physician. 2014;89(8):626-632.
General information about pancreatic cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/pancreatic/patient/pancreatic-treatment-pdq. Updated May 23, 2018. Accessed October 25, 2018.
Pancreatic cancer. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114527/Pancreatic-cancer. Updated August 31, 2018. Accessed October 25, 2018.
Pancreatic cancer. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gastrointestinal-disorders/tumors-of-the-gi-tract/pancreatic-cancer. Updated October 2017. Accessed October 25, 2018.
Stages of pancreatic cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/pancreatic/patient/pancreatic-treatment-pdq#section/_139. Updated May 23, 2018. Accessed October 25, 2018.
Tests for pancreatic cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/pancreatic-cancer/detection-diagnosis-staging/how-diagnosed.html. Updated May 31, 2016. Accessed October 25, 2018.
Last reviewed September 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP Last Updated: 10/25/2018