Getting a Clearer Picture of GI Malignancy

Over the last decade, a new tool has revolutionized the way in which gastrointestinal diseases —particularly tumors — are diagnosed and managed. At Premier Medical Group, we have that tool, and the expert to use it.

We’re all familiar with ultrasound. That’s the technology that uses high-frequency sound waves to image and examine internal organs and structures. It’s ultrasound that gives expectant parents the first look at their child, as a fetus in the womb.

Endoscopy is the now-standard procedure your gastroenterologist uses to look inside the organs of the GI tract. The endoscope is a long, flexible tube tipped with a tiny camera that, on the equipment used by Premier Medical Group, provides high-definition video images. Colonoscopy, for example, employs an endoscope to examine the colon and, when appropriate, remove polyps that might lead to cancer.

21st-century technology

Combine these two late-twentieth century imaging methods—endoscopy and ultrasound— and you have endoscopic ultrasound, a true 21st century advance.

Standard endoscopy and ultrasound, as well as CT and MRI scans, provide physicians with a great deal of information about your body’s workings. But each of these imaging tools has limitations that, in some situations, can prevent the capture of sufficiently detailed and revealing views. In EUS, a sensitive ultrasound transponder introduced right into the digestive tract captures cross-sectional images of internal organs without the sound waves having to pass through gas, bone, and fat. The resulting high-resolution images can show even the tiniest of abnormalities.

EUS is currently used to evaluate lumps or lesions discovered through standard endoscopy or first seen on x-ray tests, such as a computed tomography (CT) scan. The procedure aids in diagnosing diseases of the pancreas, bile duct and gallbladder, and helps greatly in clarifying other inconclusive or conflicting tests.

But one of the most valuable usages of EUS is in the staging of GI cancer, determining how far advanced the cancer has become. EUS is unique in its ability to provide a highly detailed 5-layer view of the walls of the intestinal tract. This view allows your doctor to accurately determine the depth of the cancer in the organ wall and whether it’s spread to nearby lymph glands and other vital structures. And, in a procedure called EUS-guided fine needle aspiration (FNA), your doctor can guide a needle directly into tumors and lymph nodes to perform a non-surgical biopsy.

Accurate staging of a cancer is critical to determining the best treatment approach, be it surgery or chemotherapy. EUS is also valuable in diagnosing inoperable cancers, sparing patients the stress of unnecessary surgery or treatments.

Though EUS is recognized as an essential technology, it is not yet available in all medical centers, largely because of a lack of skilled practitioners. Mastery of the procedure and of the image interpretation requires extensive advanced training. Premier Medical Group is proud to be able to afford our patients the benefits of EUS, right now.