The only 15x5x3cm large pancreas fulfills a double function as the only organ in the body. In it, the hormones insulin and glucagon are formed, which regulate blood sugar levels. If this function of the pancreas is disturbed, it can lead to diabetes mellitus (diabetes mellitus). Regardless, the pancreas produces enzymes without which we can not digest fats, proteins, and carbohydrates from our diet. If the enzyme production is inadequate, because the pancreas is inflamed or a tumor is present, problems can arise in particular during fat digestion.
Causes of pancreatitis
"The chronic pancreatitis (pancreatitis) is the most common disease of the pancreas We are affected by about 50, 000 to 70, 000 people It is often an increased alcohol consumption is the cause, but there are people in which even small amounts are sufficient to trigger the disease, "explains Prof. Dr. med. Joachim Mössner, vice chairman of the gastro-league and head of the action day pancreas.
Another important cause is genetic defects (mutations). They, too, can trigger chronic pancreatitis or promote their development. This is the case with every 4th to 5th patient. But also gallstones can cause pancreatitis.
Progressive pancreatitis causes an increasing destruction of the organ. Less or no insulin or digestive enzymes are produced. Severe upper abdominal pain, diarrhea / fat stools, weight loss and diabetes mellitus are important signs of the disease.
Therapy of pancreatitis
Professor Mössner warns, "For the treatment applies: Alcohol and smoking is taboo! In addition, the therapy is mainly after the complaints." Intake of digestive enzymes attempts to restore adequate digestion of the food. If the symptoms of upper abdominal pain are not alleviated despite the fact that alcohol, nicotine and digestive enzymes are not used, more or less strong painkillers can help. Insulin syringes may lower elevated blood sugar levels.
Even the strongest painkillers do not work any longer or affect the organs affected by the chronic inflammation of the pancreas surrounding organs, often only the partial removal of the pancreas (pancreatic resection). But also by means of endoscopic measures sometimes a mastery of the complications succeeds. Therapy of pancreatitis is therefore an interdisciplinary approach: collaboration between gastrointestinal specialist (gastroenterologist) and abdominal (visceral) surgeon.
Pancreatic cancer - risk factor smoking
Pancreatic cancer is one of the cancers whose early symptoms are rare and uncharacteristic. "Unfortunately, belt-shaped back pain is often attributed to other causes, " explains Professor Mössner. "Pancreatic tumors are often diagnosed only in advanced stages when the bile can no longer drain and then the patient noticed the jaundice, the dark urine and the light stool or the patient significantly loses weight."
For the vast majority of pancreatic carcinoma sufferers, there is still little hope of recovery. The sooner malignant pancreatic tumors are operated, the better the chances. In the meantime, combined with the possibilities of chemotherapy, survival rates of, as a rule, only a few years can be achieved.
The molecular genetic changes in the development of pancreatic tumors are already relatively well researched. Nevertheless, there is still no way of early diagnosis, such as colon cancer. Smoking increases the risk of developing pancreatic cancer. Even people who consume a lot of meat and animal fats, get sick more often.