5 Warning Signs That Your PANCREAS Is In Danger

November is Pancreas Awareness Month!

The pancreas is an organ located behind the stomach, between the liver and spleen. Most people know that the pancreas produces insulin. What many people don’t know is that the pancreas produces digestive juices that turn the food we eat into fuel for the body’s cells. A healthy pancreas produces the right enzymes in the right amount and at the right time to digest the food we eat. If your pancreas does not produce enough of the enzymes your body needs to break down and absorb nutrients, you may have exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI).

Major disease of the pancreas

The main diseases of the pancreas are acute pancreatitis, chronic pancreatitis, hereditary pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer. Pancreatitis is a condition in which the pancreas becomes inflamed and causes damage when digestive enzymes directly attack the pancreas. In acute cases, the inflammation is sudden and painful and usually resolves with time. In chronic pancreatitis, inflammation does not go away completely, and over time, the digestive system is disrupted. This is called exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI). Chronic pancreatitis is the most common cause of EPI in adults. Over time, chronic inflammation can cause permanent damage to the pancreas, affecting cells that secrete digestive enzymes in the pancreas and insulin-producing cells that cause indigestion, leading to diabetes.

What is pancreatic insufficiency?

EPI causes problems with your body’s digestion. Your pancreas does not produce enough of the enzymes your body needs to break down starches, proteins, fats, and even some vitamins from the food you eat. You may lose weight, have abnormal stools, and have abdominal pain.

For most people, there are medications that work with the new supply of enzymes to help digest food properly. In addition to medication, symptoms can be alleviated by eating a special low-fat diet and getting enough nutrients and protein.

What is pancreatic cancer?

Pancreatic cancer, like other types of cancer, starts when cells grow too fast and eventually turn into a mass. About 200,000 cases are reported annually in the US. Pancreatic cancer is one of the most difficult types of cancer to treat if not caught early. When talking about pancreatic cancer, it is important to consider whether it is exocrine (digestive) or endocrine (hormonal) cancer. 95% of pancreatic cancers are exocrine, with the remainder being endocrine. Most cases of pancreatic cancer are sporadic (or occasional), but some are hereditary. BRCA2 is not just about breast and ovarian cancer. There is an association between BRCA2 mutations and pancreatic cancer. Other genes are also recognized.

Risk factors for pancreatic cancer include:

family history
Chronic pancreatitis
diabetes in adults
Some syndromes of polyps and skin moles
BRCA2 and other gene mutations
Since most exocrine tumors grow in the pancreas, the first growth of pancreatic cancer occurs in the pancreatic duct, exactly where the bile duct is located. This often results in jaundice, which is yellowing of the skin due to flushing. In the early stages of pancreatic cancer, there may be no other significant symptoms, and the symptoms depend on the location of the tumor in the pancreas. Over time, most patients experience weight loss and pain.

Diagnosis and treatment of pancreatic diseases

For the diagnosis and treatment of pancreatitis, EPI, or pancreatic cancer, the skills and knowledge of a healthcare professional, such as a gastroenterologist, are recommended. Diagnosis usually requires special laboratory tests or detailed imaging, and treatment can be medical or surgical depending on the problem. See a gastrointestinal specialist if you have unexplained weight loss, persistent fatigue, jaundice, abdominal pain, or frequent bowel changes.

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