Background: The frequency, nature and timeline of changes on thin-slice (≤3 mm) multi-detector computerized tomography (CT) scans in the pre-diagnostic phase of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) are unknown. It is unclear if identifying imaging changes in this phase will improve PDAC survival beyond lead time. Methods: From a cohort of 128 subjects (Cohort A) with CT scans done 3–36 months before diagnosis of PDAC we developed a CTgram defining CT Stages (CTS) I through IV in the radiological progression of pre-diagnostic PDAC. We constructed Cohort B of PDAC resected at CTS I and II and compared survival in CTS I and II in Cohort A (n = 22 each; control natural history cohort) vs Cohort B (n = 33 and 72, respectively; early interception cohort). Results: CTs were abnormal in 16% and 85% at 24–36 and 3–6 months respectively, before PDAC diagnosis. The PDAC CTgram stages, findings and median lead times (months) to clinical diagnosis were: CTS I: Abrupt duct cut-off/duct dilatation (−12.8); CTS II: Low density mass confined to pancreas (−9.5), CTS III: Peri-pancreatic infiltration (−5.8), CTS IV: Distant metastases (only at diagnosis). PDAC survival was better in cohort B than in cohort A despite inclusion of lead time in Cohort A: CTS I (36 vs 17.2 months, p = 0.03), CTS II (35.2 vs 15.3 months, p = 0.04). Conclusion: Starting 12–18 months before PDAC diagnosis, progressive and increasingly frequent changes occur on CT scans. Resection of PDAC at the time of pre-diagnostic CT changes is likely to provide survival benefit beyond lead time.
- CT timeline
- Early detection
- Lead time
- Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism