Published on July 08, 2019

Endoscopic ultrasound: GI procedure helps improve cancer care

Doctors at Mercy Catholic Medical Center’s Mercy Fitzgerald and Mercy Philadelphia campuses now have a better way to find and treat certain cancers of the gastrointestinal tract (GI) through the use of endoscopic ultrasound (EUS).

EUS is similar to a standard upper endoscopy procedure. Doctors insert a thin, lighted tube (endoscope) through the mouth to view the esophagus, stomach and small bowel. But with EUS, there is an ultrasound probe at the tip of the instrument.

“It actually performs an ultrasound from inside the GI tract,” explains Steven Lichtenstein, DO, Mercy’s Chief of Gastroenterology.

EUS images show greater detail than a regular ultrasound, which aims the sound waves from outside the body. What’s more, EUS allows doctors to examine things standard endoscopy only suggests.

For example, an endoscopy exam sometimes reveals a lump that suggests cancer might be growing beneath the GI tract’s surface. With EUS, doctors can closely examine these areas deep within the tissues. And they can biopsy them with greater accuracy.

For that reason, EUS is often used after a traditional endoscopy. It has other uses too. For instance, doctors can use EUS to examine organs near the GI tract, including the pancreas, when cancer is suspected. In people newly diagnosed with esophageal cancer, EUS is sometimes used to see if the cancer has spread and to help plan treatments.

What to expect

Patients are sedated for EUS. And they go home that same day after they recover from the anesthesia.

“EUS is a proven procedure that can help detect cancer at an earlier stage,” Dr. Lichtenstein says.