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Pancreatic Conditions

DHI Is Experienced & Equipped to Handle Non-Cancerous Pancreatic Conditions

This page is primarily about treatment for benign pancreatic conditions. For information about malignant tumors in the pancreas, please see the page for pancreatic cancer.

There are several medical conditions that affect the pancreas, the gland behind the stomach that has both digestive and hormonal purposes. Gastroenterologists and surgeons at the Digestive Health Institute have a lot of experience in treating these pancreatic conditions, including pancreatitis, pancreatic cysts and pseudocysts, and exocrine pancreatic insufficiency.

Pancreatitis

When the pancreas becomes inflamed, the result is pancreatitis. Pancreatitis can be:

  • Chronic, a condition that lasts for years, or
  • Acute, when symptoms suddenly appear and go away after a few days.

Chronic pancreatitis symptoms include:

  • Pain in the upper abdomen
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Stools that are oily and unusually smelly

Symptoms of acute pancreatitis include:

  • Pain in the upper abdomen. This pain may worsen after eating and/or radiate to the back. Your abdomen may also feel tender when touched.
  • Fever
  • Increased pulse
  • Nausea and vomiting

Pancreatitis Prognosis

Pancreatitis can go away on its own, but cases with severe symptoms require medical treatment. See a doctor if you have abdominal pain that does not go away or if the pain is so severe that you are unable to find a comfortable position.

If left untreated, pancreatitis can cause a number of life-threatening complications. These can include infection, internal bleeding and breathing problems. Pancreatitis can also lead to conditions such as diabetes, kidney failure, and even pancreatic cancer.

Diagnosing Pancreatitis

It takes several tests for doctors to confirm a diagnosis of pancreatitis. These may include blood tests, a stool test (for chronic pancreatitis) and imaging tests to look for pancreatic inflammation and blockages in the pancreatic duct or bile ducts.

Treating Pancreatitis

Treatment for acute pancreatitis involves hospitalization with the proper care to ensure the pancreas can heal itself and that a patient’s pain is well-managed.

For chronic pancreatitis, treatment is based on the cause of pancreatitis. Treatments include:

  • Removal of the blockage in the pancreatic or bile duct
  • Cholecystectomy (gallbladder removal) if pancreatitis was caused by gallstones
  • Pancreatectomy (removal of some or all of the pancreas)

Pancreatic Cysts & Pancreatic Pseudocyst

Pancreatic cysts and pancreatic pseudocyst are most often discovered during an imaging test for another problem. A cyst is a self-contained sac that contains fluid. If a cyst only contains fluid, it is a simple cyst. If it has both fluid and solid parts, it is a complex cyst. The pancreas can also develop a pseudocyst, which is often caused by pancreatitis or heavy alcohol use. These masses look like cysts, but they are technically not cysts because they exist in cavities within the pancreas and are not self-contained.

Most pancreatic cysts are benign (not cancer). Some of them disappear on their own. Others require endoscopic treatment so they can be drained. Otherwise, the cyst might rupture, which could cause bleeding or infection. Finally, some types of pancreatic cysts are very likely to develop into cancer. If you have such a cyst, your doctor may recommend that it be removed. In this case, you would need a pancreatectomy. Living without part or even all of your pancreas is better than being at high risk for pancreatic cancer, which is very difficult to treat.

Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency

Sometimes chronic pancreatitis and even Crohn’s disease can lead to exocrine pancreatic insufficiency. This is a condition in which the pancreas fails to make all of the enzymes necessary for digestion that it should. The result is that the body is unable to absorb all of the nutrients it needs.

Patients with exocrine pancreatic insufficiency often experience:

  • Weight loss
  • Abdominal pain, and/or an abdomen that is tender to the touch
  • Diarrhea
  • Gas
  • Smelly stools

Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency is treated with oral medications that replace the enzymes the pancreas is supposed to make. Patients will need to adopt a healthy diet, and some may need pain medications to better manage their abdominal pain.

If you need treatment for a pancreatic condition, call for an appointment with a DHI pancreatic and gallbladder disease doctor at (813) 615-7557.

SURGICAL CONSULTATIONS FOR DIGESTIVE CANCER Without The Wait

APPOINTMENTS WITHIN 5 DAYS FOR PATIENTS WITH CANCER

At DHI, we know that after being diagnosed with cancer, patients want and often need to begin treatment quickly. So we make it a priority to offer appointments for cancer surgery consultations within 5 business days, and often earlier. Our surgeons will make themselves available to see you right away, even for a second opinion.

Patients who are newly diagnosed with cancer, or have just found out they have cancer recurrence, qualify for this priority access. Our surgeons will make themselves available to see you right away, even for a second opinion. We want to help you start your treatment as soon as possible.

If you have been diagnosed with a cancer of the digestive system, don’t wait.
Call the Digestive Health Institute at (813) 615-7440.

Learn more about our Surgical Cancer Care program.

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