The pancreas produces enzymes that break down food and hormones that help control blood sugar levels. Pancreatic cancer usually begins in the cells that produce the enzymes. If symptoms occur, they are often subtle and overlooked. Eventually you may notice yellowing of the skin and eyes, pain in the abdomen and back, weight loss, fatigue. Keep in mind, many diseases and conditions may cause similar signs and symptoms.
Pancreatic cancer is difficult to detect early, meaning early tumors cannot be seen or felt during routine physical exams. Other tests are required to confirm the diagnosis, such as CT scans or CT-guided biopsies, MRIs, EUS, and ERCP. Treatment will vary depending upon the stage of the cancer.
When the pancreas does not produce enough of the enzymes the body needs to break down food in the small intestine, it is called pancreatic insufficiency. This condition prevents food from digesting properly and stops the body from absorbing essential nutrients. Symptoms may include weight loss, pain in your belly or back, bloating, gas, and/or fatty stools.
Pancreatic insufficiency is diagnosed using blood and stool tests, CT scans an MRIs, and ERCP. To treat pancreatic insufficiency, our team may recommend lifestyle changes, vitamin supplementation, and other therapies to normalize your gut's absorption of nutrients or treat the diseases causing pancreatic insufficiency.
Normally, the pancreas creates digestive enzymes that are activated once released into the small intestine. Pancreatitis is a disease in which these enzymes activate before they are released and attack the pancreas. Pancreatitis can be acute (occur suddenly and be resolved within a few days of treatment) or chronic (get progressively worse and may lead to permanent damage). Symptoms may include abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, fever, rapid pulse, diarrhea, and/or oily stools.
Pancreatitis may be diagnosed using a physical or blood test, abdominal ultrasound, CT scan, or EUS. With a stay in a hospital for IV fluids, antibiotics, and pain management medication, acute pancreatitis usually resolves in a few days. Treatment for chronic pancreatitis may require hospitalization for several weeks for pain management, IV hydration, and nutritional support, lifestyle and diet changes, enzyme supplements, ERCP, or surgery to remove part of the pancreas based on extent of pancreatic inflammation.