Pancreatic disease

The pancreas is a small organ of glandular tissue, sitting just below and behind the stomach in the centre of the abdomen.  It is responsible for the production of insulin to control blood sugar, and digestive enzymes to help digest food. Problems with the pancreas gland are rare, but serious.

Acute pancreatitis manifests with a sudden onset of severe central abdominal pain, often with vomiting, and usually requires hospitalisation.  It is usually triggered by gallstones or heavy alcohol intake, and often recurs.

Chronic pancreatitis causes a more prolonged chronic pain, sometimes with malabsorption of food and diabetes, and usually results from chronic alcohol use.

Cancer of the pancreas can present with pain, loss of appetite and weight loss, or sometimes with jaundice, and needs urgent assessment.

Tests to investigate the pancreas include blood tests, stool tests, computerised tomography x-ray (CT scan), magnetic resonance imaging scan (MRI), or an endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatogram (ERCP).

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