When it comes to treating cancer, exact diagnosis and staging is an essential step toward improving patient outcomes. In the past, hard to reach tumors, such as those in the pancreas and ampulla (the ducts in the liver and pancreas that connect to the small intestine) could not be staged without major surgery. With the introduction of a new technology called endoscopic ultrasound, physicians are now able to diagnose, stage and, in some cases, treat hard to reach tumors without surgical incision.
Advocate Christ Medical Center is one of few medical centers in the Chicago region to offer endoscopic ultrasound, and our gastroenterologists are some of the most experienced in using endoscopic ultrasound. This expertise makes Christ Medical Center a leader in the staging and treating gastrointestinal cancers.
Endoscopic ultrasound, otherwise known as endosonography, is an advanced procedure that combines endoscopy and ultrasound to create more detailed images of the esophagus and other digestive tract structures including lymph nodes. This more detailed information is useful in determining cancer staging for lesions in the esophagus, liver, pancreas, stomach, and bile duct. It is the only tool currently used to effectively stage ampullary tumors. Accurate staging provides information on the cancer's status, which is critical for effective treatment planning.
Endoscopic ultrasound can find tumors less than 1 cm (about 0.4 inch), which can't be seen in a CT scan. It also helps the physician distinguish between cysts and tumors, without making an incision.
In addition to staging, endoscopic ultrasound can be used to relieve pain associated with cancer. Using the ultrasound imaging, physicians guide a special needle through the scope and directly to nerve fibers, administering treatment that prevents transmission of pain sensation.