Pancreatic cancers & conditions
The pancreas is an organ located behind the stomach. It makes digestive enzymes that help break down foods and hormones that regulate blood sugar.
Disorders of the pancreas
Diseases and disorders that involve the pancreas not functioning normally include:
- Diabetes. This occurs when the pancreas produces too much insulin, too little insulin or no insulin at all.
- Pancreatitis. This is an inflammation of the pancreas, which can come on suddenly or can be a chronic condition. Blockages, such as gallstones, in the pancreatic duct or excessive alcohol use are the most common causes of pancreatitis.
- Pancreatic cancer. Chronic pancreatitis can lead to pancreatic cancer. Other risk factors include smoking, age, being male and exposure to certain industrial chemicals.
- Pancreatic insufficiency. This condition involves the inability of the pancreas to produce or secrete enough digestive enzymes to digest food in the small intestine. This is normally the result of chronic pancreatic damage caused by pancreatitis or cystic fibrosis.
- Cystic fibrosis. This inherited genetic disorder causes mucus to stop pancreatic enzymes from reaching the intestines. This can lead to digestive problems and delayed growth.
Types of pancreatic surgery
Depending on the type of problem you have and the extent of that problem, your provider will determine the best medical or surgical management for it. There are many types of pancreatic surgery, including:
- Whipple procedure (pancreatricoduodenectomy). This commonly involves removal of the head of the pancreas, the first portion of the small bowel (duodenum) and the distal common bile duct. This procedure is commonly done as an "open" operation involving a midline abdominal incision; however, it may be performed robot-assisted and, in some rare cases, laparoscopically.
- Distal pancreatectomy. This involves the removal of the tail of the pancreas and often the entire spleen. This procedure is commonly done laparoscopically or with robot assistance.
- Total pancreatectomy. This involves the removal of the entire pancreas, the common bile duct, part of the small intestine, part of the stomach, the spleen and the gallbladder.
- Palliative procedures. These include procedures done to alleviate symptoms or discomfort, but not to cure diseases.
Novant Health Hepatobiliary and Pancreas Specialists uses the most advanced diagnostic tools and tests available to evaluate your condition. Then, we work with you to develop a treatment plan that is right for you.