In order to evaluate the severity of pancreatitis and pancreatic cancers, your doctor will likely recommend a pancreas biopsy. A pancreas biopsy can help assess how a tumor is affecting your pancreas’ natural function, allowing your doctor to determine next steps for your treatment and well-being.
A biopsy is a procedure that removes tissue from an area of concern in the body. The extracted tissue is examined by interventional specialists to determine the presence or cause of a disease. When it comes to the pancreas, biopsies are often used to evaluate the presence and stage of pancreatic cancer.
Pancreas biopsies are performed during an endoscopic ultrasound using a fine needle. The ultrasound carefully images the pancreas while the fine needle is used to extract a sample of tissue.
During your procedure, your doctor will use a fine needle as the main biopsy device and an endoscopic ultrasound to guide the needle.
In order to image your pancreas, an endoscope (a thin and responsive tube) with a tiny camera at the end is inserted into your body via the mouth. As your doctor examines your abdomen through a monitor, the ultrasound transducer within the endoscope emits high-frequency sound waves to your pancreas.
Using the detailed images of the pancreas provided by the transducer, your surgeon will insert the biopsy device into the pancreas and extract tissue from the suspicious area.
After your biopsy procedure, a pathologist examines the extracted tissue specimen to detect any complications. If cancer is present, the pathologist can then look at the cancer’s characteristics and formulate a precise diagnosis.
At Providence, our surgeons, nurses and caregivers work to ensure your procedure is done in a comfortable and calming environment to avoid complications.
The pancreas biopsy (and endoscopic ultrasound) is generally a safe procedure. Despite the unlikelihood of a complication occurring, the procedure does carry certain risks. These risks include nausea, heartburn, soreness of the throat and difficulty swallowing after the procedure, as well as drowsiness from the sedative medications.
Because the biopsy requires the extraction of pancreatic tissue, there is also a slight risk of pancreatitis (swelling of the pancreas), as well as infection, bleeding, bruising, or swelling of the injection site.