Determining which pancreatic cancers are treatable

INDIANAPOLIS -- A high-quality computed tomography (CT) scan is just as successful in predicting whether pancreatic cancer is treatable surgically as a more invasive diagnostic tool, according to an Indiana University School of Medicine study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Approximately 30,700 cases of pancreatic cancer are diagnosed annually in the United States. Each year approximately 30,000 people in this country die of the disease making this cancer one of the deadliest and one of the few whose incidence rate equals its death rate. The only cure for the disease, which is difficult to diagnose, is successful surgical removal of the entire tumor.

"This is the first study to compare state of art CT imaging with what many physicians assumed would be better -- the more invasive endoscopic ultrasound procedure which requires the use of sedation and the insertion of a miniature camera into the patient's body," said John DeWitt, M.D., assistant professor of medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine and first author of the study. "We have shown that a state-of-the-art CT scan can do as accurate a job at letting us know which patients have tumors which can be successfully surgically removed as the more invasive endoscopic ultrasound. If a person has a high quality CT scan which shows a mass that appears to be completely removable, endoscopic ultrasound does not appear to be necessary to confirm that a tumor is removable.">

While CT scans were as accurate in determining whether tumors could be successfully removed, the study found that endoscopic ultrasound was more accurate in detecting new cancers and determining the stage of the disease. Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer death in the United States.


Contact: Cindy Fox Aisen
Indiana University

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