The evaluation of pancreatic diseases can be difficult due to the inaccessibility of the pancreas. There are multiple methods to evaluate the pancreas. Initial tests of the pancreas include a physical examination, which is difficult since the pancreas is deep in the abdomen near the spine.
Blood tests are often helpful in determining whether the pancreas is involved in a specific symptom but may be misleading. The best radiographic tests to evaluate the structure of the pancreas include CAT (computed tomography) scan, endoscopic ultrasound, and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). Tests to evaluate the pancreatic ducts include ERCP (endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography) and MRCP(magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography). There are also instances in which surgical exploration is the only way to confirm the diagnosis of pancreatic disease.
Pancreatic cancer early is challenging because patients rarely experience the signs of pancreatic cancer until the disease has progressed or spread. Therefore, pancreatic cancer is typically diagnosed at later stages, making long-term prognosis and survival rates much lower than other cancers.
Experiencing several common symptoms may indicate pancreatic cancer at an advanced stage or an unrelated medical condition.