~ The Pancreas ~
The human pancreas is an amazing organ with two main functions, to produce pancreatic endocrine hormones(insulin & glucagon) which help regulate many aspects of our metabolism and, to produce pancreatic digestive enzymes. Pancreatic production of insulin, somatostatin, gastrin, and glucagon plays an important role in maintaining sugar and salt balance in our bodies, any problem in the production or regulation of these hormones will manifest itself with problems with blood sugar and fluid with salt imbalances.
The pancreas is a solid gland about 10 inches (25cm) long. It is attached to the back of the abdominal cavity behind the stomach and is shaped like a wee tadpole. The tail is situated just beneath the extreme edge of the left side of the ribs, while the head is closely attached to the first part of the small intestine, where the stomach empties food and liquid, already partially digested. The pancreas adds its digestive juices (enzymes) to this partially digested food.
There is a tube draining the liver of its bile (the bile duct) it lies just behind the head of the pancreas and usually joins the bowel at the same place where the fluids from the pancreas enter the bowel. Running behind the body of the pancreas are many important blood vessels. Because of its position in the body, it is not easy for a surgeon to operate on the pancreas.
Diseases of the Pancreas
Because of its this deep location that at times makes diagnosis of the disease difficult. The pancreas is essential to the digestive process.
Pancreatic cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer death around the world and is nearly always fatal, despite the continued diligent efforts of the medical professionals. Because of the lethality of this disease and the usual failure of standard treatment to date, future efforts on the advances that are being made in understanding and delineation of the genetic and molecular cell biology regarding cancer cells.
If the cancer is not treated, cancer cells can spread into nearby organs or lymph nodes, or, eventually, break away and spread to other parts of the body.
Smoking increases the risk of pancreatic cancer by two to three times.The risk of developing pancreatic cancer increases after the age of 50 years. Pancreatic cancer is most likely to occur between the ages of 60 and 80 years. A diet high in meat and fat may increase the risk of pancreatic cancer, whilst eating a lot of fruit and vegetables may reduce this risk.
Chronic pancreatitis means a long-term inflammation of the pancreas. This increases the risk of developing pancreatic cancer, especially in the case of the inherited form of chronic pancreatitis.
Diabetes increases the risk of developing pancreatic cancer.
Cancer of the pancreas can occur because of genetic faults. These faults can be inherited, or acquired after birth. This can explain why, in rare cases, cancer of the pancreas runs in some families. It is estimated that only about 1 in 20 people with pancreatic cancer have a family history of this disease.
Pancreatic cancer does not usually cause symptoms in its early stages. When symptoms do occur, they may be vague. Pancreatic cancer is hard to detect early because the pancreas is located deep inside the body. In many cases, it may have spread outside the pancreas by the time a doctor diagnoses it.
The rarer endocrine (or islet cell) cancers may cause restlessness, loss of energy, irritability, sweating, tremors, drowsiness, and severe confusion.
These symptoms occur if the cancer interferes with the secretion of the hormone insulin, which results in a low blood sugar level.
People who notice any of the above changes should consult their doctor. However, these symptoms will usually be due to reasons other than pancreatic cancer.
A doctor may ask questions about any previous medical problems, including those of family members, ask about current symptoms, carry out a full physical examination, which will focus mainly on the abdomen and arrange for a blood test.
The doctor may also arrange for one or more scans and test, often including ultrasound, CT or MRI scan, a ERCP test or a biopsy.
In some cases, doctors may be able to treat the cancer by removing part of the pancreas. However, the cancer is often too advanced for this procedure. If pancreatic cancer blocks the bile duct, doctors may use surgery to remove this blockage.
Radiotherapy may be used to treat the cancer, especially to alleviate pain.
Chemotherapy may be used after surgery or on its own.
Pain control and supportive treatment are also administed.
Symptoms and signs are pain, generally sudden, steady & severe & felt worse by walking and lying. It is better by sitting & leaning forward, travelling to the back, having nausea & vomiting. Usually a history of a heavy meal or alcohol intake before the attack, a tender & rigid abdomen, moderate to high fever, increased heart rate, low blood pressure, pale, cool clammy skin.
With laboratory testing the findings could read, increased white cell counts, protein in the urine, increased blood sugar, increased bilirubin, increased blood urea & increased pancreatic enzymes and a decrease with blood calcium are usually an ominous sign.
Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas & is characterized as an escape of activated pancreatic enzymes from pancreatic cells into surrounding tissues. It is usually related to biliary tract or related to heavy alcohol intake. Although pancreatitis has many associations such as high blood calcium, high blood fats, abdominal trauma, including surgery, drugs (sulfonamides, thiazides) vasculitis & viral infections, the exact cause is not yet known.
To prevent an onset by controling your diet and reduce alcohol intake.
The only treatment here involves resting the pancreas by fasting, pain relievers are given for pain and antibiotics for established infections
Mild pancreatitis subsides spontaneously but some will occur again, there is a high death rate for severe pancreatitis.
~ Index of Information ~
~ Canada ~
Pancreatic Disease (Including Diabetes)
Endocrine Tumors of the Pancreas
Your Family Doctor on the Web
~ USA ~
The National Pancreas Foundation
The Pancreatic Disease Center
The Pancreatic Duct
~ British Isles ~
Cancer Research UK
~ Australia ~
The Transplantation Society of Australia & New Zealand
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