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Enlarged peri-pancreatic lymph node found. Reason for concern?

Posted by

My mother (71 years old, otherwise healthy) just had an ultrasound because she went to the doctor describing some tenderness in her side that she was concerned about. The ultrasound came back as finding one enlarged peri-pancreatic lymph node. The doctor said they would follow up with another ultra-sound in 3 months.
Is this a sign of pancreatic cancer?
Also, is pancreatic cancer hereditary?

Linda J - Macmillan

Hello HopefulforMom,

Thanks for getting in touch. It’s natural to worry if this is related to pancreatic cancer.

There can be other causes of enlarged lymph nodes, such as infection. From what you are saying it sounds like the doctor is being cautious. This doesn’t mean that the doctor thinks this is a cancer. It’s not uncommon for doctors to wait for 3 months to have a follow up scan.


We would encourage you both to speak with the doctor if you are worrying about waiting 3 months. They can clarify their reasons and hopefully give you both some reassurance.


If, during these 3 months you are worried about changes to your mum’s health or she develops any new symptoms that are causing concern, report these to her doctor.


In most cases pancreatic cancer does not run in families, however there are some rare conditions that may put some people at a higher risk of developing it.


I hope this helps. Please get back in touch if you have any other questions.

Best Wishes Linda (Macmillan Information Nurse)

Posted by

Hi Linda,

Thanks very much for your reply. I am hoping that the cause of the enlarged lymph node is anything other than cancer related. There was no indication otherwise that my mom is fighting an internal infection, so I’m not sure if it’s that.

Yes, in fact the 3 month wait time for a follow up ultrasound is of concern to me because I wonder why wait if there is something wrong? It almost sounds like waiting for it to get worse before doing something. Why not do a biopsy or other test/scan such as CT scan or MRI in the event that it is cancer and to stop it ASAP prevent it from spreading?

As we know, pancreatic cancer is an aggressive one and I would like to do something now rather than wait. 

Especially concerned because her father died of pancreatic cancer.

Thank you for you time,


JaneL - Macmillan
Posted by

Hi Ida

Thanks for getting back in touch. Of course, you are concerned about your mom as your grandfather died of pancreatic cancer. And you are right it can be an aggressive cancer and is often diagnosed late due to the vague symptoms it presents with.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) in the UK do have clear guidelines doctors follow if they have a suspicion that someone has pancreatic cancer. It states:

People without jaundice who have pancreatic abnormalities on imaging

1.1.4 Offer a pancreatic protocol CT scan to people with pancreatic abnormalities but no jaundice.

1.1.5 If the diagnosis is still unclear, offer FDG‑PET/CT and/or EUS with EUS‑guided tissue sampling.

1.1.6 If cytological or histological samples are needed, offer EUS with EUS‑guided tissue sampling

Your mom should make an appointment with her doctor to ask whether rather than waiting 3 months for a repeat ultrasound, she should have a CT of her pancreas. And it is important to stress she has a first degree relative that has died from a pancreatic cancer and why she is worried that she has cancer. Pancreatic Cancer UK have these tips to help you talk to your GP which were produced along with Macmillan Cancer Support.

Often it can be helpful to call our Support Line on 0808-808-0000 and talk to one of our nurses about this and how concerned you are. If you think that would help we are open every day 8am till 8pm.

Best wishes and take care.

Jane Macmillan Information Nurse Specialist