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A pancreas scan is a specialized radiology procedure used to assess the pancreas for the presence of a specific type of tumor. A pancreas scan is a type of nuclear radiology procedure. This means that a tiny amount of a radioactive substance is used during the procedure to assist in the examination of the pancreas. A pancreas scan may also be used to treat certain malignant tumors of the pancreas.
In many nuclear medicine procedures, the radioactive substance is referred to as a radionuclide. However, the radioactive substance used in a pancreas scan is called a radiopeptide, because the compound to which the radioactive material is attached is a synthetic peptide (an organic compound which is a component of protein). Because tumor cells readily bind with certain peptides, nuclear medicine radiologists have developed highly specific radiopeptides that bind with tumor cells and thus make certain tumors visible with nuclear imaging techniques. In addition, radiopeptides may be used to treat certain types of tumors by using specific therapeutic radioactive substances attached to the radiopeptide.
Once the radiopeptide has bonded with the peptide receptor cells of tumors, the radiopeptide emits a type of radiation, called gamma radiation. The gamma radiation is detected by a scanner, which processes the information into an image of the tumor.
Other related procedures that may be used to diagnose problems of the pancreas include abdominal x-rays, computed tomography (CT scan) of the abdomen or pancreas, or an endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP). Please see these procedures for additional information.
The pancreas is an elongated, tapered organ located across the back of the abdomen, behind the stomach. The right side of the organ (called the head) is the widest part of the organ and lies in the curve of the duodenum (the first section of the small intestine). The tapered left side extends slightly upward (called the body of the pancreas) and ends near the spleen (called the tail).
The pancreas is made up of two types of glands:
The pancreas has digestive and hormonal functions:
A pancreas scan may be performed to screen for primary or metastatic cancer of the pancreas. A pancreas scan may be used to assess response to therapy for pancreatic cancer and/or to monitor the course of the cancer.
There may be other reasons for your physician to recommend a pancreas scan.
The amount of the radiopeptide injected into your vein for the procedure is small enough that there is no need for precautions against radioactive exposure. The injection of the radiopeptide may cause some slight discomfort. Allergic reactions to the radiopeptide are rare, but may occur.
For some patients, having to lie still on the scanning table for the length of the procedure may cause some discomfort or pain.
Patients who are allergic to or sensitive to medications, contrast dyes, or latex should notify their physician.
If you are pregnant or suspect that you may be pregnant, you should notify your physician due to the risk of injury to the fetus from a pancreas scan. If you are lactating, or breastfeeding, you should notify your physician due to the risk of contaminating breast milk with the radiopeptide.
There may be other risks depending upon your specific medical condition. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your physician prior to the procedure.
Certain factors or conditions may interfere with the accuracy of a pancreas scan. These factors include, but are not limited to, the following:
A pancreas scan may be performed on an outpatient basis or as part of your stay in a hospital. Procedures may vary depending on your condition and your physician's practices.
Generally, a pancreas scan follows this process:
While the pancreas scan itself causes no pain, having to lie still for the length of the procedure might cause some discomfort or pain, particularly in the case of a recent injury or invasive procedure such as surgery. The technologist will use all possible comfort measures and complete the procedure as quickly as possible to minimize any discomfort or pain.
You should move slowly when getting up from the scanner table to avoid any dizziness or lightheadedness from lying flat for the length of the procedure.
You may be instructed to drink plenty of fluids and empty your bladder frequently for about 24 hours after the procedure to help flush the remaining radionuclide from your body.
The IV site will be checked for any signs of redness or swelling. If you notice any pain, redness, and/or swelling at the IV site after you return home following your procedure, you should notify your physician as this may indicate an infection or other type of reaction.
You may resume your usual diet and activities, unless your physician advises you differently. Your physician may give you additional or alternate instructions after the procedure, depending on your particular situation.
The content provided here is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease, or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your physician. Please consult your physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.
This page contains links to other Web sites with information about this procedure and related health conditions. We hope you find these sites helpful, but please remember we do not control or endorse the information presented on these Web sites, nor do these sites endorse the information contained here.