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Symptoms & Diagnosis

At Wilmot Cancer Institute, we provide the full spectrum of care, from initial diagnosis and treatment to recovery and rehabilitation.

We work in multidisciplinary teams. “Multidisciplinary” means that our care providers include experts with a variety of specialties: surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, pathologists, radiologists, nurse practitioners, social workers, and clinical researchers. They work together on your case to provide the most personalized care possible.

Symptoms

Getting an accurate diagnosis is essential to getting the best treatment. Pancreatic cancer is difficult to find early, partly because the organ is hidden and early symptoms aren't always noticeable. Don't ignore these signs, though:

  • Pain in the upper or middle abdomen or back 
  • Light-color stools and nausea 
  • Dark urine
  • Jaundice (yellowing of skins and eyes)
  • Poor appetite and weight loss for no reason
  • Feeling very tired.

How is pancreatic cancer diagnosed?

Medical history and physical examination: This step includes a complete medical history and assessment of risk factors and symptoms. The physical exam will focus on the abdomen and nearby lymph nodes up to the collarbone.

pancreas cellsImaging: This includes x-rays, CT scans, MRI, PET scans, ultrasounds, and cholangiograms, which are special types of imaging tests to examine the pancreatic and bile ducts.

Blood tests: This involves collecting blood and tissue to look for tumors markers and to evaluate liver function. Blood tests to look at levels of pancreatic hormones can help to diagnose neuroendocrine tumors.

Biopsy: A biopsy involves removing cells or other tissue for further examination by a pathologist. Several procedures can be used for pancreatic cancer, including fine-needle aspiration, core needle, or a laparoscopy.

Endoscopic ultrasound and biopsy: This specialized procedure involves inserting a thin tube down into the stomach; at the tip of the tube is a small ultrasound probe that emits sound waves and captures detailed images to be interpreted by a doctor. At the same time, doctors can use the technology to collect tissue and cell samples directly from the pancreas. It also allows doctors to see parts of the pancreas that aren’t visible on other imaging tests. One of Wilmot’s unique strengths is its Gastroenterology team, which has expertise in this procedure.