NCCN Guidelines for Patients
Pancreatic Cancer, Version 1.2014
Tests for pancreatic cancer
A CT scan is often the first test given for pancreatic
cancer. A CT scan takes many pictures of a body part
from different angles using x-rays.
See Figure 5.
A special type of CT scan—called a pancreatic
protocol CT scan—is recommended for pancreatic
cancer. A protocol is a detailed plan of a medical
study, treatment, or procedure. A pancreatic protocol
CT is done in a certain way so that all of the pictures
focus specifically on the pancreas and nearby area.
This special CT scan allows doctors to clearly see the
pancreas, nearby blood vessels, and very tiny tumors.
Before the CT scan, you may be given a contrast dye
to make the pictures clearer. The dye will be injected
into your vein. It may cause you to feel flushed or get
hives. Rarely, serious allergic reactions occur. Tell
your doctor if you have had bad reactions before.
An MRI scan uses radio waves and powerful magnets
to take pictures of the inside of the body. It does not
use x-rays. An MRI may cause your body to feel a bit
warm. Like a CT scan, a contrast dye may be used
to make the pictures clearer. A special type of MRI
scan—called a pancreatic protocol MRI scan—is
recommended for pancreatic cancer. A pancreatic
protocol MRI scan is done in a certain way so that it
focuses specifically on the pancreas and nearby area.
This special MRI scan allows doctors to clearly see
the pancreas, nearby blood vessels, and very tiny
tumors. A pancreatic protocol MRI scan may be used
instead of CT to view the pancreas.
An MRCP is a type of MRI scan that makes very clear
pictures of the pancreas and bile ducts. No contrast
dye is used because bile and other fluids serve as
contrast. An MRCP takes about 10 minutes, but it is
often done along with a normal MRI scan.
Scopes / Internal imaging
Some imaging tests use a thin, tube-shaped tool
called a scope that is inserted into the body to take
pictures. One end of the scope has a small light and
camera lens to see inside your body. At the other end
of the scope is an eyepiece that your doctor looks
through to see the images shown by the camera. The
scope may be guided into the body through a natural
opening, such as the mouth or nose. Or, it may be
inserted through a small surgical cut.
There is more than one type of scope that may be used
for imaging tests. The type of scope often used for
pancreatic cancer is called an endoscope. An endoscope
is often guided into the body through the mouth. The
types of imaging tests with scopes recommended for
pancreatic cancer are described below.
Figure 5. CT scanning machine