Pancreatic cancer blood tests are often given to patients if their disease is suspected to have progressed, or to see if their current treatment option is effective. Blood tests can also be given to those who are suspected to have pancreatic cancer to confirm their diagnosis. However, the test is more accurate in advanced stages since early stages pancreatic cancer may not have elevated levels of bilirubin or CA19-9, a common tumor marker.
Complications of pancreatic cancer are often reflected in the levels of blood cells and the function of organs, so blood tests are useful in monitoring the progression of disease and whether treatment has been effective. Other ways pancreatic cancer is tested for and diagnosed include:
- Health history and physical exam
- PET scan
- CT scan
Blood Tests for Pancreatic Cancer
If pancreatic cancer is suspected and an operation needs to be done to remove the tumor without time to wait for biopsy results, the following blood test can be used to diagnose pancreatic cancer:
- Liver function tests: Jaundice is the first sign of pancreatic cancer in many patients. The liver function test can determine the cause of jaundice and whether it is pancreatic cancer. The bilirubin levels are measured, and the test can tell if it is attributed to pancreatic cancer or other conditions such as gallstone or other diseases.
Once you have been diagnosed been with pancreatic cancer, additional blood tests can be given:
- Complete blood count (CBC): The levels of white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets are tested during and after treatment to monitor how well the bone marrow and other organs are functioning.
- Chemistry panel (metabolic profile): certain chemicals are measured within the blood to monitor the function of the pancreas and relevant organs. High levels of chemicals such as bilirubin or amylase can reveal problems such as:
- Blockage in bile duct or pancreatic duct
- Inflammation or infection in the pancreas
- Metastasis of cancer to the liver
- CA19-9 blood test: Tumor markers associated with pancreatic cancer such as CA19-9 can also be detected through blood tests. However, not all pancreatic cancer patients have elevated CA19-9 levels and not all people with elevated levels of CA19-9 have pancreatic cancer. For those with elevated levels of CA19-9, this test can be given routinely to monitor the progress of treatment. Decreasing levels of CA19-9 can mean the tumor is shrinking and treatment is working.
These tests can also determine if pancreatic cancer patients are able to withstand a major operation due to the recovery being severe. If you have already been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, talk to your doctor to see if any of these blood tests could be beneficial for your case.