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How Your Doctor Takes a Biopsy to Diagnose Pancreatic Cancer

Feb 6, 2009

Many imaging tests can show whether there is a tumor in your pancreas or in the areas nearby. Based on these tests, your doctor will probably have a good idea whether you have pancreatic cancer. A biopsy can confirm for sure that you have cancer. It can also let your doctor know what kind of pancreatic cancer you have. Your doctor can do the biopsy as a separate procedure, during another test, or during surgery to remove your pancreas. Your doctor usually does a biopsy in one of these three ways.

Fine needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy

Your doctor uses a computed tomography (CT) scan or an endoscopic ultrasound to locate your tumor. Then your doctor inserts a long, thin needle through your skin and into the tumor. He or she removes cells through the needle.

Brush biopsy

Your doctor may do this biopsy during a procedure called an endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography test. Your doctor inserts a long, thin tube called an endoscope through your mouth into the first part of your small intestine. Your doctor then places a tiny brush through the endoscope and into your pancreatic or bile ducts. The brush rubs off some cells for testing.

Laparoscopy

Your surgeon makes a small cut on your abdomen (belly) and inserts a thin tube with a light and a tiny video camera on the end. It lets your doctor see your pancreas and nearby areas. Your surgeon may make other small cuts to insert other tools to remove cells for testing.

Once the biopsy is done, a specialized doctor, called a pathologist, examines tissue samples under a microscope to check for cancer cells. It usually takes a few days for the results of your biopsy to come back.

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