I’ve heard a lot about endoscopic ultrasounds. What are they and can they assist in cancer detection or treatment?

      — Lori, Gooding

      Answered by Dr. Judith Csanky, M.D., DPM, St. Luke’s Clinic, Gastroenterology:

      Endoscopic ultrasound combines endoscopy and ultrasound to obtain images and information about the digestive tract, (which includes the esophagus, stomach, small and large intestines and rectum) and the surrounding tissues and organs.

      Endoscopy refers to the procedure of inserting a long flexible tube through the mouth or the rectum to visualize the digestive tract. The ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to produce images of the organs and structures inside the body such as ovaries, uterus, liver, gall bladder, pancreas and aorta.

      Endoscopic ultrasound is a new technique where the endoscope is equipped with an ultrasound probe that enables the gastroenterologist to see through the wall of the digestive tract to other organs — up to two inches outside of the digestive tract. With the ultrasound view, the biggest advantage is the ability to take tissue samples from outside of the digestive tract to determine if there is cancerous growth in that area. This is a safe outpatient procedure and a much less invasive procedure for detection of cancer than surgery or an outside biopsy done through the skin by a radiologist.

      With this new technique, it is much easier to detect cancer and to sample suspicious growth close to the gastrointestinal tract at an earlier stage, thereby increasing the probability of a cure. While the main purpose of endoscopic ultrasound is to detect cancer and to determine the stage of cancer, it is also used to study bile duct abnormalities, including stones. It can also evaluate chronic pancreatic issues.

      Please contact your primary care provider if you have additional questions.

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