Endoscopy, ERCP and biopsy

Here people share what happened when they had an endoscopy, Endoscopic retrograde cholangio pancreatography (ERCP) and/or biopsy to test for pancreatic cancer.

What is an endoscopy?

An endoscope is a long, thin, flexible tube with a light, camera and ultrasound probe. Doctors use it to make pictures of the inside of your body. The endoscope usually goes into your body through your mouth and down into your stomach. A few people we spoke to had a colonoscopy, where the endoscope goes in through the anus (see ‘Tests and diagnosis of pancreatic cancer).

What is an ERCP?

Endoscopic retrograde cholangio pancreatography (ERCP) is used to look for blocked bile ducts in the pancreas. It uses an endoscope to put dye into the pancreas so that the doctor can take an X-ray. An ERCP can take between 30-60 minutes. People usually have a local anaesthetic and a sedative. In rare cases people have a general anaesthetic. A few people we spoke to chose not to have a sedative for their first endoscopy but asked for one if they had to have the procedure again.

The doctor did an endoscopy to establish where the tumour was and to estimate its size. The…

Age at interview 65

Gender Male

Age at diagnosis 63

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Whats it like to have an endoscopy?

Most people who had an endoscopy said they didnt like the idea of having to swallow the tube. They and had found the procedure unpleasant but it hadn’t lasted long. Some of those who had a sedative had fallen asleep and couldnt remember much.

Phil was terrified by the thought of having an endoscopy but the sedative made him sleepy and the…

Age at interview 50

Gender Male

Age at diagnosis 50

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During an endoscopy the surgeon can do a biopsy on a suspected tumour. A small instrument attached to the endoscope can collect cells to check for cancer.

During an endoscopy Rory had a biopsy. She reacted badly to the procedure, had severe pain and…

Age at interview 66

Gender Female

Age at diagnosis 65

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Peter had several endoscopies. On one occasion the doctor did a biopsy. Peter does not recall any…

Age at interview 62

Gender Male

Age at diagnosis 62

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Doctors sometimes do a biopsy of the pancreas, or another affected organ, using a long, thin needle, which goes through the patient’s abdomen. Ultrasound scans help to guide the needle towards the tumour.

Adrian had a biopsy of his pancreas. Doctors put a needle through his abdomen, guided by…

Age at interview 48

Gender Male

Age at diagnosis 47

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Lilian had two liver biopsies. Each time doctors inserted a needle, which did not hurt, but after…

Age at interview 74

Gender Female

Age at diagnosis 74

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Laparoscopy (keyhole surgery)

A biopsy may be done in other ways too. Sometimes doctors do a laparoscopy (or keyhole surgery), making one or more small incisions in the abdomen (tummy) and putting a laparoscope (telescope) through one of them. This allows the doctor to see inside and take the biopsy.

Hamish had a laparoscopy under general anaesthetic. During the operation the surgeon biopsied the…

Age at interview 76

Gender Male

Age at diagnosis 72

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The results of Helen’s first endoscopic biopsy were inconclusive, meaning there was no clear result. Another one was taken during an operation to remove the tumour.

Some people we interviewed had a stent put in to treat jaundice at the same time as having the endoscopy (see ‘Treating the initial symptoms).

Hearing the diagnosis and prognosis

We spoke to people about what happened and how they felt when they were told that had pancreatic cancer. Feelings about getting a pancreatic cancer...