Pancreatitis/Cancer

Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas, an organ that helps us digest fats and proteins, and also controls the release of insulin to maintain our blood sugar. About 70% of Pancreatitis is caused by alcohol use or gallstones. It usually presents with terrible mid-abdominal pain boring through to the back. Treatment involves putting the pancreas to rest (by not eating), IV fluids and pain control with narcotics. Pancreatic Cancer presents frequently with jaundice (yellow eyes or skin), from blockage of the exit duct provided, the mass is near the opening. Weight loss and pain typically appear later. The diagnosis is made with CT scan, and confirmed with biopsy of the mass. Surgery is extensive, and unfortunately the only cure. Even if the lymph nodes are negative, five-year survival is only 30%, this drops to 5-10% once lymph nodes are involved. If pancreatic cancer is detected and evidence of spread elsewhere is seen, we seriously consider avoiding surgery entirely and using palliative care alone.

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