The pancreas is a gland associated with digestive system, located behind stomach. It produces juices that help to break down the food and also produces hormones that help to control blood sugar levels. Pancreas is affected by various disease processes like infections,inflammations, Stones,cancers etc., Of these afflictions most common problems in India are Acute and chronic pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer.
a) Acute Pancreatitis: It is the inflammation of the pancreas that occurs suddenly and usually resolves in a few days with treatment. It can be a life-threatening illness with severe complications. The swelling is generally because of a stone blocking the Pancreatic duct or because of direct damage inflicted by alcohol particularly after binge drinking. Commonly presents with severe pain which is sometimes agonizing. The pain is also commonly perceived in the lower back. Depending on the severity of problem patient can also have vomiting, jaundice, fever, breathing difficulty, low urine output etc.
b) Chronic pancreatitis –This is a problem where in there is a slow progressive damage to organ due to which the pancreas shrinks in size. This is common in middle age patients more commonly men. This generally is due to long time alcohol consumption or blockage by stones. It may also be seen in very young patients. It generally presents with long standing abdominal pain which radiates to lower back. However the most striking presentation is with greasy stools after taking oily meal due to deficiency of digestive enzymes as a result of shrinking of the gland.
c) Pancreatic cancer- This is commonly seen in middle aged or elderly men. Ethonolics and chronic smokers have higher predilection for cancer. It presents with pain in abdomen associated with weight loss.Significant number of patients also have associated jaundice and vomiting.
Majority of pancreatic problems can be diagnosed by simple blood tests, stool test and ultrasound scan (USG ) of abdomen.However special tests like Endoscopy, CT scan ,MRI scan ,Tumour markers etc may be required to charectarise the lesion or to know the severity of disease or to know the extent of the disease.
a) Acute pancreatitis: In about 80% patients the disease is mild and usually responds to simple medication.However in the remaining cases due severe necrosis in the gland patients may have Multi organ failure as well as sepsis.These patients generally require ICU treatment including ventilator , dialysis,powerfull antibiotics etc. Some of these patients also require operation to remove the unviable and infected part of pancreas so as to reduce the sceptic load.
b) Chronic pancreatitis : In early phase these patients may be managed with artificial pancreatic enzyme supplements and pain killers.Some of these cases can also be managed by dissolving the stones with lithotripsy or other endoscopic methods. However those who donot respond to these modalities can be helped by surgery where in the obstructed MPD can be joined directly to intestine by a procedure called Bypass.
c) Pancreatic cancer: It is important for these patients to be picked up at early stage of disease. Such cases can be offered complete cure by surgery. For those who present at advanced stages also, quality of life can be improved by various endoscopic or surgical or medical measures.
Pancreas can be affected by various ailments from simple infections to cancers. Some of these can be prevented by adopting healthy life style. Majority of pancreatic problems including cancer are curable. It is very important to seek Medical advice at and early stage.
National Institute of Gastroenterology and liver diseases Doctors are internationally trained surgeons and the place has well equipped high end facilities like state-of-the-art operation theaters and other infra structure to cure problems of the digestive system. It has eminent man power to handle these kind of cases. Quality medical care is available here.