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Pancreatic diseases affect thousands of people each year and pancreatic cancer is the fourth-leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. Catching this disease early, especially when the cancer is still treatable, is essential.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
What Does the Pancreas Do, and Why Is It So Difficult to Examine?
Wedged between the stomach and spine in the upper abdomen, the pancreas performs two essential job. It creates enzymes that break down food so it can be digested and it generates essential hormones such as insulin. Its embedded location makes it difficult for doctors to manually examine and feel the organ to determine if it’s swollen or inflamed. Blood tests can help, but they may also be misleading. The best way to assess the health of the pancreas include CAT (computed tomography) scans, endoscopic ultrasounds, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), and even operating to view the organ. But first, patients and doctors have to know that something is wrong.
- Wedged between the stomach and spine in the upper abdomen, the pancreas performs two essential job.
- The best way to assess the health of the pancreas include CAT (computed tomography) scans, endoscopic ultrasounds, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), and even operating to view the organ.
What Can Go Wrong and What Are the Symptoms?
Elevated Liver & Pancreas Enzymes
There are a number of problems that can affect the pancreas, many of them cause enough pain and discomfort to be noticed quickly. -Acute pancreatitis is a sudden attack that causes severe abdominal pain, as well as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, bloating and fever, according to The National Pancreas Foundation 13.cause:
- -Acute pancreatitis is a sudden attack that causes severe abdominal pain
- as well as nausea
- according to The National Pancreas Foundation 13
This can be caused by gallstones, alcohol abuse, and other conditions and it usually goes away after treatment. -Chronic pancreatitis mimics many of acute pancreatitis’ symptoms, especially pain and diarrhea, but this disease lingers and is usually caused by alcohol abuse, cystic fibrosis or other genetic causes. It often strikes men in their 30s and 40s. -Hereditary pancreatitis is an inherited abnormality in the pancreas and often results from cystic fibrosis. -Unlike other pancreatic disorders, cancer in the pancreas is subtle in its early stages. The first sign is often jaundice—the yellowing of skin or the whites of the eye—with no accompanying pain. If caught early, pancreatic cancer can be removed surgically, but catching it early is challenging.
- There are a number of problems that can affect the pancreas, many of them cause enough pain and discomfort to be noticed quickly.
- -Chronic pancreatitis mimics many of acute pancreatitis’ symptoms, especially pain and diarrhea, but this disease lingers and is usually caused by alcohol abuse, cystic fibrosis or other genetic causes.
What Are Pancreatic Cancer's Early Signs?
These symptoms should be immediately reported to a doctor. -Unexplained weight loss -Itching, which results from the build-up of acids the pancreas is no longer able to remove -Other digestive problems
Risk Factors for Pancreatic Cancer
Reasons For a Gallbladder Removal
The exact cause of pancreatic cancer is unknown, but here are some risk factors that may increase the chance pancreatic cancer will occur. -Genetics plays a role: If a family member has had pancreatic cancer, hereditary pancreatitis or has the breast cancer gene BRAC2, the risk increases. -Gender and ethnicity: Men are at higher risk, especially if they are 65 or older. African-American men and women are also at higher risk. -Lifestyle matters. People who drink nine or more alcoholic drinks each day are at higher risk as are smokers. Obesity, diabetes and diets high in animal fats and low in fruits and vegetables also increase pancreatic cancer risk.
- The exact cause of pancreatic cancer is unknown, but here are some risk factors that may increase the chance pancreatic cancer will occur.
- -Gender and ethnicity: Men are at higher risk, especially if they are 65 or older.
Elevated Liver & Pancreas Enzymes
Reasons For a Gallbladder Removal
What Can Cause Severe Pain With Fatty Liver Disease?
High Levels of Alkaline Phosphatase & Pancreatitis
Early Symptoms of Pancreatitis
Causes of Pains in My Upper Stomach
Pain in the Upper Right Back After Eating
Can Food Sensitivities and Allergies Cause Gallbladder Problems?
Upper-Right Side Abdominal Pain After Eating Steak
Fatty Liver and the Pancreas
- The National Pancreas Foundation
- Johns Hopkins Pancreatic Cancer Research Center
- National Institutes of Health: Pancreatitis
- Afghani E, Pandol SJ, Shimosegawa T, et al. Acute pancreatitis-progress and challenges: a report on an international symposium. Pancreas. 2015;44(8):1195-210. doi:10.1097/MPA.0000000000000500
- Yadav D, Lowenfels AB. The epidemiology of pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer. Gastroenterology. 2013;144(6):1252-61. doi:10.1053/j.gastro.2013.01.068
- Krishna SG, Kamboj AK, Hart PA, Hinton A, Conwell DL. The changing epidemiology of acute pancreatitis hospitalizations: a decade of trends and the impact of chronic pancreatitis. Pancreas. 2017;46(4):482-488. doi:10.1097/MPA.0000000000000783
- Yoshida S, Okada H, Nakano S, et al. Much caution does no harm! Organophosphate poisoning often causes pancreatitis. J Intensive Care. 2015;3(1):21. doi:10.1186/s40560-015-0088-1
- Afghani E, Pandol SJ, Shimosegawa T. Acute Pancreatitis-Progress and Challenges: A Report on an International Symposium. Pancreas. 2015;44(8):1195–1210. doi:10.1097/MPA.0000000000000500
- Huh JH, Jeon H, Park SM, et al. Diabetes mellitus is associated with mortality in acute pancreatitis. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2018;52(2):178-183. doi:10.1097/MCG.0000000000000783
- Chatila AT, Bilal M, Guturu P. Evaluation and management of acute pancreatitis. World J Clin Cases. 2019;7(9):1006-1020. doi:10.12998/wjcc.v7.i9.1006
- Shah AP, Mourad MM, Bramhall SR. Acute pancreatitis: current perspectives on diagnosis and management. J Inflamm Res. 2018;11:77–85. Published 2018 Mar 9. doi:10.2147/JIR.S135751
- National Pancreas Foundation. Acute pancreatitis causes and symptoms.
- Mandalia A, Wamsteker EJ, DiMagno MJ. Recent advances in understanding and managing acute pancreatitis. F1000Res. 2018;7:F1000 Faculty Rev-959. Published 2018 Jun 28. doi:10.12688/f1000research.14244.2
- Uc A, Andersen DK, Bellin MD. Chronic pancreatitis in the 21st century - research challenges and opportunities: summary of a National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases workshop. Pancreas. 2016;45(10):1365–1375. doi:10.1097/MPA.0000000000000713
- National Pancreas Foundation. Chronic pancreatitis causes and symptoms.
- Lew D, Afghani E, Pandol S. Chronic pancreatitis: current status and challenges for prevention and treatment. Dig Dis Sci. 2017;62(7):1702–1712. doi:10.1007/s10620-017-4602-2
I hold a Master's degree in exercise physiology/health promotion. I am a certified fitness specialist through the American College of Spots Medicine and an IYT certified yoga teacher. I have over 25 years experience teaching classes to both general public and those with chronic illness. The above allows me to write directly to the reader based on personal experiences.