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What is the best diagnostic test for pancreatic cancer?

By Anonymous May 7, 2009 - 5:38am
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I was told last year that my right kidney had shriveled up and died. I continue to have pain on my right side, right back and sometimes in my back on the left side. I am almost 56 years old. My mother died at the age of 57 with heart and kidney disease. My brother will be 57 this year. He has been on dialysis for 5 years. Could the pains that I have discribed be pancreatic or liver related? Please comment. My email is [email removed by moderator (Susan Cody) per Empowher policy] Thank you Diane Silver

March 19, 2010 - 11:19am
HERWriter Guide (reply to Anonymous)


Thank you for your question!

I assume you had the dead kidney removed?

I would heartily suggest you make an appointment immediately. You have a very strong family history of kidney failure (and I am so sorry you lost your mom so young and that your brother is also going through this).

Your symptoms may be as simple as needing a lot more fiber in your diet or your other kidney may be in trouble. Please make an appointment as soon as you can and make sure your family history is known and documented. For you, this is not a wait-and-see situation. I hope you can call today or first thing Monday.

Can you update us when you know more?

March 19, 2010 - 11:32am

Hi, Anon, and welcome to EmpowHer. Are you concerned that you or someone close to you might have symptoms of pancreatic cancer?

Pancreatic cancer is difficult to diagnose because it's not a matter of a simple blood test, for instance. Often, other symptoms show up first that alert the doctors to look for this kind of the disease.

Here's our EmpowHer page on pancreatic cancer. If you click on "Learn more about pancreatic cancer in our Health Encyclopedia," it will take you to a page that talks about symptoms, risk factors, diagnoses (including the tests that are used) and treatments:


Since you asked specifically about the tests, here is an excerpt from the page:

Test may include:

* Upper GI series — a series of x-rays of the upper digestive system taken after drinking a barium solution

* CT scan — a type of x-ray that uses a computer to make pictures of structures inside the abdomen

* MRI scan — a test that uses magnetic waves to make pictures of structures inside the abdomen

* Ultrasonography — a test that uses sound waves to find tumors

* Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) — a type of x-ray that shows the pancreatic ductal system after dye has been sent through a tube down the throat and into the pancreas

* PTC — a type of x-ray test that shows blockages in the bile ducts of the liver

* Angiography — x-rays of blood vessels taken after an injection of dye that makes the blood vessels show up on the x-rays

* Biopsy — removal of a sample of pancreatic tissue to test for cancer cells

You can see why it's not an easy thing to catch until symptoms have started showing up. Here is the American Cancer Society's page on how pancreatic cancer is diagnosed. It goes into great detail regarding each symptom and test:


Is this information helpful to you? Do you have more specific questions that we can help you with?

May 7, 2009 - 9:34am
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