Skip to Main Content
Diagnosis Cancer


Your doctor will first ask about your medical history and perform a physical examination. In addition, he or she may order the following tests:

  • Computed Tomography (CT) Scan An X-ray that uses a computer to provide an image of the inside of the abdomen.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Scan This test uses magnetic waves to create an image.
  • Ultrasound This test uses high-frequency sound waves that echo off the body to create a picture.
  • Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) During an ERCP, a flexible tube is inserted down the throat and into the stomach and small intestine. By injecting dye into the drainage tube of the pancreas, your doctor can see the area more clearly.
  • Endoscopic Ultrasound (EUS) EUS involves passing a thin, flexible tube called an endoscope through the mouth or the anus to exam the lining and walls of the upper and lower gastrointestinal tract and nearby organs such as the pancreas and gall bladder. The endoscope is equipped with a small ultrasound transducer that produces sounds waves that create a viewable image of the digestive track. When combined with fine needle aspiration, EUS becomes a state-of-the-art, minimally invasive alternative to exploratory surgery to remove tissue samples from abdominal and other organs. It also may be used to determine the cause of symptoms such as abdominal pain, to evaluate a growth, to diagnose diseases of the pancreas, bile duct and gall bladder when other tests are inconclusive and to determine the extent of certain cancers of the lungs or digestive tract.
  • Percutaneous Transhepatic Cholangiography (PTC) By injecting dye into the bile duct through a thin needle inserted into the liver, blockages can be seen on X-ray.
  • Bile Duct Biopsy and Fine Needle Aspiration A tiny sample of the bile duct fluid or tissue is removed and examined under a microscope.

UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.