Pancreatic Cancer Screening Diagnostics

It can be difficult to catch pancreatic cancer early. Most people do not experience symptoms until the cancer is advanced or has spread to other organs. At Cedars-Sinai, we screen people at high risk so we can find pancreatic cancer in its early stages. That gives us the best chance to treat it effectively.


Types of Pancreatic Cancer Screening

We look at your family and health history and use genetic testing to assess your risk for pancreatic cancer. If we determine you have an increased risk, we recommend regular screening to check for signs of early cancer.

There is no simple blood test for pancreatic cancer. Based on the current guidelines for pancreatic cancer screening, we perform one of two imaging tests annually.


Endoscopic Ultrasound (EUS)

This test uses high-frequency sound waves to create highly detailed pictures of the pancreas, bile duct and other parts of the digestive tract. If we find signs of cancer, we can take tissue samples (biopsy) during this procedure.

Your doctor will spend time with you before your procedure and explain your results to you and your caregiver afterward. How it works:

  1. You receive medicine (anesthesia) to help you sleep during the procedure.
  2. We insert a thin tube called a scope into your mouth and pass it down to your small intestine. The scope has a tiny camera and ultrasound probe attached to it.
  3. Sound waves from the probe create images that help us detect early signs of pancreatic cancer.
  4. The procedure takes 20 to 40 minutes.
  5. When you wake up, your throat may feel a little scratchy.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

An MRI is a noninvasive test that lets us see the pancreas and bile duct. MRI uses radio waves and magnets to create detailed pictures of the inside of the body. MRI is an easy way to look for signs of pancreatic cancer and does not cause any side effects. How it works:

  1. You are awake throughout the test.
  2. We ask you to lie still during the test and hold your breath at times.
  3. You hear loud noises during the test. This is a normal part of an MRI. You have earplugs or noise guards during the test.
  4. The test takes about 45 minutes to an hour.

Which Type of Screening Do You Need?

The type of test you get depends on your risk level. You will likely receive an endoscopic ultrasound at your first screening. After that, you may receive annual MRIs. If you are considered very high risk, we will alternate between endoscopic ultrasound and MRI each year. Find more information about screenings and appointments with our patient guide.

Have Questions or Need Help?

Call us or send a message to the PanScan Program.

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