Pancreatic cancer can be an incredibly difficult disease to detect when it is in its early stages. Depending upon the location that the tumor grows, this form of cancer may not show any give away or significant symptoms until the tumor has grown further in size, is blocking the production of hormones or pancreatic juice, or has spread to other areas of the body in a process known as metastasis.
A frustrating part of being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer is that the disease has a high success rate in terms of being curable, during its early stages. As the cancer develops, treatment becomes more complicated and difficult. This article will give a brief overview of the various screening and testing procedures used in the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.
What is the screening process in terms of cancer?
The process of screening an individual in terms of cancer can involve a number of tests that are used to asses and detect the presence of a particular disease. If risk factors are identified early then people may not even develop the disease in the first place. If screening procedures are carried out during the early days of the disease, the survival rate and quality of life for the patient is greatly improved. For cancers that are widespread throughout the world and population, there are specific screening procedures in place and those with a high risk of developing the disease and encouraged to take part in them. However, with pancreatic cancer there is currently no specific screening test available for the diagnosis of the disease. Instead, doctors or physicians will carry out a number of tests and observe the patient for the presence of any symptoms.
How are people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer?
There are various symptoms and signs displayed by those who may have developed pancreatic cancer. These symptoms will vary depending on the individual involved, however the table below highlights specific areas that health professionals will observe when looking at someone who has a high risk of developing pancreatic cancer.
· Testing and observation of skin and eyes for yellowing (Jaundice)
· Examinations of the abdomen for pain and swelling
· Urine tests and analysis, looking for the presence of bile
· CT scans to look for the presence and size of a pancreatic tumor
· An ultrasound to produce a picture of what may be happening within the pancreas
· Laparoscopy – An operation which allows the observation of the pelvis and abdomen
· PET scan – This will test for the presence of a tumor and detect whether the cancer has spread to other areas of the body