Clinical suspicion of pancreatic cancer despite negative endoscopic ultrasound-guided fine-needle aspiration biopsy

ANZ J Surg. 2022 Jan;92(1-2):99-108. doi: 10.1111/ans.17256. Epub 2021 Oct 11.


Background: The early and accurate diagnosis of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma is vital for improving the efficacy of therapeutic interventions and to provide patients with the best chance of survival. While endoscopic ultrasound-fine needle aspiration (EUS-FNA) has been demonstrated to be a reliable and accurate diagnostic tool for solid pancreatic neoplasms, the ongoing management of patients with a high clinical suspicion for malignancy but with a negative EUS-FNA biopsy result can prove a challenge.

Methods: We describe five patients from a single centre who presented for further work-up of a pancreatic mass and/or imaging features concerning for a periampullary malignancy.

Results: All patients had at least one EUS-FNA biopsy performed which returned no malignant cells on cytology. Despite these negative cytology results, all patients underwent further invasive investigation through upfront resection (pancreaticoduodenectomy) or extra-pancreatic biopsy (laparoscopic biopsy of peritoneal nodule) due to worrisome features on imaging, biochemical factors and clinical presentation culminating in a high degree of suspicion for malignancy. The final tissue histopathological diagnosis in all patients was pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma.

Conclusion: This case series highlights the important clinical findings, imaging and biochemical features which need to be considered in patients who have high suspicion for malignancy despite having a negative EUS-FNA cytology result. In these patients with a high index of suspicion, surgical intervention through an upfront resection or further invasive investigation should not be delayed.

Keywords: endoscopic ultrasound; endoscopic ultrasound-guided fine-needle aspiration; pancreatic adenocarcinoma; pancreaticoduodenectomy.

MeSH terms

  • Endoscopic Ultrasound-Guided Fine Needle Aspiration* / methods
  • Endosonography
  • Humans
  • Pancreatectomy
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms* / diagnostic imaging
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Pancreaticoduodenectomy
  • Retrospective Studies