What is a biopsy of the pancreas?

A biopsy of the pancreas is a diagnostic procedure where a sample of pancreatic tissue is removed and examined to determine if you have cancer. A biopsy of the pancreas can be performed during surgery to remove the pancreas or as a stand-alone procedure.

Types of pancreatic biopsies

There are three ways to perform a pancreatic biopsy:

Fine needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy

During a fine needle aspiration biopsy, also known as percutaneous biopsy, your doctor will use a CT scan or endoscopic ultrasound to locate the pancreatic tumor. Once the tumor is located, cells are removed through a long, thin needle that is inserted into the tumor within the pancreas.

Endoscopic biopsy

During an endoscopic biopsy, your doctor will insert an endoscope with a camera on the end into the small intestine through the mouth. Depending on your case, your doctor may use an endoscopic ultrasound or endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography to obtain a sample of pancreatic or bile duct cells. Then, he or she will thread a tiny brush through an endoscope into the pancreatic or bile ducts to rub off some of the pancreatic cells so they can be tested.

Surgical biopsy (laparoscopy)

During a surgical biopsy, your surgeon will insert a tube that has a light and video camera on it into the abdomen. This procedure allows your doctor to view the pancreas in more detail. Once your doctor has located the tumor with the camera, he or she will determine the best way to collect cells to evaluate for cancer. A laparoscopy is the most common form of surgical biopsy.

Who is a candidate for biopsy of the pancreas?

Your doctor may order a biopsy of the pancreas if he or she suspects you have pancreatic cancer or to understand what type of pancreatic cancer you have.

Risks associated with a biopsy of the pancreas

Complications associated with a biopsy of the pancreas are rare.

Results from a biopsy of the pancreas

After the test, your tissue sample will be sent to a Mercy Health pathologist for examination. The pathologist will review the sample to determine if there are cancer cells in the pancreas and if so, what type of pancreatic cancer you have.

Results from a biopsy of the pancreas will be sent to your doctor a few days after the test. Your doctor will either call or schedule an appointment to review the results.

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