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Tests You May Need to Evaluate Pancreatic Cancer

Your doctor probably took a biopsy to determine that you had cancer. He or she did this by taking a sample of cells or fluid from an area that looked suspicious in your pancreas. Your doctor also needs to know the cancer’s stage, which shows how much and where the cancer has spread. This helps the doctor suggest the best treatment for you. Your doctor may have learned the stage of your cancer during diagnostic tests, such as a computed tomography (CT) scan or an ultrasound. Your doctor may now ask for more tests.

One test you may need is a positron-emission tomography (PET) scan. This creates an image that shows cells throughout your body. This test checks for cancer that has spread, called metastatic cancer.

For a PET scan, you either swallow or get injected with a biochemical. It may be glucose that carries a mildly radioactive substance. It may take an hour or so for the glucose to go throughout your body to reach the cancer cells. Then, you’ll lie still on a table that slides into the PET scanner. The scanner rotates around you, taking pictures of where your body is using glucose. Tumors are more active and use more glucose than healthy cells. A PET scan is painless. The resulting picture is not very detailed, but it can show the whole body. The PET scan image is often combined with a CT image to provide better detail.

Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Online Medical Reviewer: Welch, Annette, MNS, OCN
Date Last Reviewed: 3/25/2014
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