It's known to spread rapidly and is rarely detected early, but endoscopic ultrasounds are changing these statistics when it comes to spotting pancreatic cancer. "This instrument can give us an in-depth look to see if its something to be worried about, or can be followed, or needs to be removed," says Dr. Tal Hazan, a gastroenterologist on the Lee Memorial Health System medical staff.
"You're sedated. Then we place the tube into the mouth and down to the esophagus which is a tube connected from the mouth into the stomach. Once in the stomach, the ultrasound waves are used and we can look at the body of the pancreas. We can look at the tail of the pancreas and if it's further advanced, we can look at more of the pancreas."
The results: immediate. And potential problems can be investigated right there on the spot. "When we have a mass in the pancreas and we are suspicious for cancer, we usually have a pathologist on hand while I am biopsying the lesion that can tell us – under the microscope- they can look at the cells from the samples I gather and say, 'this is something that looks very malignant' or something, he's not sure, get more samples' and I'll continue to biopsy."
Pancreatic cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer deaths simply because symptoms may not appear until the cancer is in the advanced stages. This device not only helps in the detection process but in the treatment process.