Imaging of pancreatic cancer: An overview
Pancreatic cancer (PaCa) is the fourth leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States. The median size of pancreatic adenocarcinoma at the time of diagnosis is about 31 mm and has not changed significantly in last three decades despite major advances in imaging technology that can help diagnose increasingly smaller tumors. This is largely because patients are asymptomatic till late in course of pancreatic cancer or have nonspecific symptoms. Increased awareness of pancreatic cancer amongst the clinicians and knowledge of the available imaging modalities and their optimal use in evaluation of patients suspected to have pancreatic cancer can potentially help in diagnosing more early stage tumors. Another major challenge in the management of patients with pancreatic cancer involves reliable determination of resectability. Only about 10% of pancreatic adenocarcinomas are resectable at the time of diagnosis and would potentially benefit from a R0 surgical resection. The final determination of resectability cannot be made until late during surgical resection. Failure to identify unresectable tumor pre-operatively can result in considerable morbidity and mortality due to an unnecessary surgery. In this review, we review the relative advantages and shortcomings of imaging modalities available for evaluation of patients with suspected pancreatic cancer and for preoperative determination of resectability.