Diagnosing Pancreatic Disease: Help From the Laboratory


The laboratory plays an essential role in helping clinicians diagnose and monitor pancreatic diseases, ranging from benign to malignant. If laboratorians are to understand how their daily routine of performing laboratory tests translates to patient care, building a foundation of knowledge with regard to pancreatic anatomy, histology, and physiology is crucial. Acute pancreatitis and pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma are common pancreatic diseases that provide a clinically based framework to further apply this information and develop an understanding of the interplay between pancreatic function, laboratory testing, and the effects of disease on patients. Frequently ordered laboratory tests such as amylase, lipase, and other serum biomarkers are known to have strengths and weaknesses that contribute to their usefulness in the evaluation of acute pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer. Tumor biomarkers may be helpful in the course of diagnosing pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma; however other biomarkers may be used in screening a particular population for the likelihood of disease or to monitor a disease’s response to treatment. An awareness of acute pancreatitis and pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma reinforces the purpose and importance of several frequently encountered laboratory tests.

Originally presented on April 30, 2012, in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Lecture Presenter

Kajsa Affolter, MD

Kajsa Affolter, MD

Pathology Resident
University of Utah School of Medicine

Kajsa was born and raised in Topeka, Kansas. She received her B.S. in microbiology from Kansas State University and her M.D. from the University Of Kansas School Of Medicine. Having finished two years of her AP/CP residency at the University of Utah, she will take a year to focus on gastrointestinal, hepatic and pancreaticobiliary pathology before completing her general AP/CP training. Her academic interests include all areas of diagnostic gastrointestinal pathology.


After this presentation, participants will be able to:

  • Diagram basic gross and microscopic pancreatic anatomy.
  • Given classic patient scenarios, compare and contrast acute pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer.
  • Be able to evaluate advantages and disadvantages of the screening tests.
  • List commonly used serum biomarkers for evaluating pancreatic disease.

Sponsored by:

University of Utah School of Medicine, and ARUP Laboratories