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How Your Doctor Takes a Biopsy to Diagnose Pancreatic Cancer

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.


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.