A diagnosis of pancreatic cancer carries a 5-y survival rate of less than 10%. Furthermore, the detection of pancreatic cancer occurs most often in later stages of the disease due to its location in the retroperitoneum and lack of symptoms (in most cases) until tumors become more advanced. Once diagnosed, cross-sectional imaging techniques are heavily utilized to determine the tumor stage and the potential for surgical resection. However, a major determinant of resectability is the extent of local vascular involvement of the mesenteric vessels and critical tributaries; current imaging techniques have limited capacity to accurately determine vascular involvement. Surrounding inflammation and fibrosis can be difficult to discriminate from viable tumor, making determination of the degree of vascular involvement unreliable. New innovations in fluorescence and optoacoustic imaging techniques may overcome these limitations and make determination of resectability more accurate. These imaging modalities are able to more clearly discern between viable tumor tissue and non-neoplastic inflammation or desmoplasia, allowing clinicians to more reliably characterize vascular involvement and develop individualized treatment plans for patients. This review will discuss the current imaging techniques used to diagnose pancreatic cancer, the barriers that current techniques raise to accurate staging, and novel fluorescence and optoacoustic imaging techniques that may provide more accurate clinical staging of pancreatic cancer.

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