Memorial Sloan-Kettering gastroenterologist Mark Schattner says that the vast majority of pancreatic cancers are found after a patient notices symptoms, when the cancer is already advanced. Others are identified incidentally with imaging for other conditions. There is no evidence that screening for pancreatic cancer helps to improve survival. Researchers at Memorial Sloan-Kettering hope to find noninvasive methods of screening for precancerous and early-stage pancreatic tumors.
Our doctors evaluate each patient with an endoscopic ultrasound biopsy. In this procedure, a gastroenterologist can obtain highly detailed images of the pancreas. These images are used to guide a needle through the abdomen and into the pancreas to remove tumor cells. A pathologist performs a biopsy of the tissue to determine if it is cancerous. In some cases, the appearance of a tumor is highly suggestive of cancer even if the biopsy is negative. Having a multidisciplinary team of highly experienced pancreatic cancer experts is critical to making this important distinction and in determining the best treatment approach.