Pancreatic Cancer and Its Mimics
Frank H Miller, Camila Lopes Vendrami, Nancy A Hammond, Pardeep K Mittal, Paul Nikolaidis, Anugayathri Jawahar
Radiographics . 2023 Nov;43(11):e230054. doi: 10.1148/rg.230054.
Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is the most common primary pancreatic malignancy, ranking fourth in cancer-related mortality in the United States. Typically, PDAC appears on images as a hypovascular mass with upstream pancreatic duct dilatation and abrupt duct cutoff, distal pancreatic atrophy, and vascular encasement, with metastatic involvement including lymphadenopathy. However, atypical manifestations that may limit detection of the underlying PDAC may also occur. Atypical PDAC features include findings related to associated conditions such as acute or chronic pancreatitis, a mass that is isointense to the parenchyma, multiplicity, diffuse tumor infiltration, associated calcifications, and cystic components. Several neoplastic and inflammatory conditions can mimic PDAC, such as paraduodenal "groove" pancreatitis, autoimmune pancreatitis, focal acute and chronic pancreatitis, neuroendocrine tumors, solid pseudopapillary neoplasms, metastases, and lymphoma. Differentiation of these conditions from PDAC can be challenging due to overlapping CT and MRI features; however, certain findings can help in differentiation. Diffusion-weighted MRI can be helpful but also can be nonspecific. Accurate diagnosis is pivotal for guiding therapeutic planning and potential outcomes in PDAC and avoiding biopsy or surgical treatment of some of these mimics. Biopsy may still be required for diagnosis in some cases. The authors describe the typical and atypical imaging findings of PDAC and features that may help to differentiate PDAC from its mimics.