Thestudy included 57 patients who had clinical symptoms of pancreaticcancer. All had contrast enhanced 3D gradient-echo MRI examinations.Radiologists correctly identified pancreatic cancer in 24 patients,said Richard Semelka, MD, professor of radiology, at the University ofNorth Carolina, Chapel Hill, and an author of the study. Eight of thecancers found were less than two centimeters in size, Dr. Semelka said.“Currently patients with pancreatic cancer are treated with completesurgical resection and the smaller the tumor, the easier it is toremove,” he said.
Pancreatic cancer is usually diagnosed toolate, said Dr. Semelka. About 40,000 people are diagnosed with thedisease in the U.S. each year, and nearly all of them die. Pancreaticcancer is the fourth most common cause of cancer death in the U.S. “Thesymptoms of the disease are somewhat nonspecific and can easily bemisinterpreted. In addition, the disease is very aggressive so if thedisease is missed or the diagnosis is delayed, the patient's chance forsurvival is dismal,” he said.
3D MRI did indicate pancreaticcancer in three patients, but biopsy showed they did not have thedisease. However, one did have a neuroendocrine tumor and one had focalpancreatitis. Three patients were lost to follow-up, said Dr. Semelka.“No patient with a study interpreted as normal was subsequently foundto have pancreatic cancer,” he added.
“We are now working withour internists to detect this disease earlier,” said Dr. Semelka. “Weare encouraging them to refer their patients for a 3D MRI examinationif a patient has severe mid-abdominal pain not explained by a backproblem, sudden development of diabetes and/or sudden development ofjaundice. Radiologists who are reading 3D MR images of patients withabdominal pain should also look for pancreatic cancer even if thepatient didn't have the examination for that purpose,” he said.
The study appears in the September 2005 issue of the American Journal of Roentgenology.
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