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Pancreas

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The pancreas is located in the middle of the abdomen. It’s surrounded by the stomach, small intestine, liver and spleen. It’s about six inches long and shaped like a thin pear, wide at one end. It has three sections: wider right end is the head, the middle is the body and the left end is the tail. The pancreas has two functions; to make enzymes that help digest fats and proteins and the other, to produce insulin that controls the blood sugar level called glucose. It consists of Islet cells (1 of 3 types), which are endocrine glands. This means the Islet cells secret the insulin directly into the blood stream. The pancreas contains many more of these Islet cells than the body needs to maintain a normal insulin level. Even when half of the pancreas is removed, the blood sugar level can still remain normal. The pancreas is also made up of exocrine glands, which produce enzymes for digestion. When the blood sugar levels aren’t normal, it’s a disease called diabetes. Diabetes (diabetes mellitus) is a deficiency of the hormone insulin or the inhibition of its action with the cells. The insulin acts like a bridge between the glucose and the cells. In the US there are about 16 million people who suffer from diabetes. It is the seventh most common cause of all deaths. Diabetes is most common in Native American females over 45 years of age. There are two main types of diabetes. The firsts is insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM). In IDDM the body either doesn’t produce diabetes or produces very small amounts. The symptoms usually occur in teenagers under 20, usually around puberty. Untreated IDDM affects the metabolism of fat. Since the body can’t convert glucose into energy, it is broken down into fat and stored for energy. This also increases the amounts of ketone bodies in the blood, which interfere with respiration. The second type is called is non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM). This is when the body doesn’t make enough insulin or is unable to use it. NIDDM is the most common of all diabetes; it makes up 90 to 95 percent of all cases. Scientists believe that in some people weight gain or obesity is what triggers their diabetes because 80 percent of people with diabetes are over weight. Another problem people have with the pancreas is pancreatic cancer. Each year about 29,000 Americans and 3,000 Canadians are diagnosed with it. This is when healthy cells in the pancreas become abnormal and grow too quickly. The cells form a mass called a tumor. When the tumor can spread throughout the body it is called malignant and another word for malignant is cancer. Most common malignant tumors in the pancreas come from cells involved in producing enzymes for digestion. These cells make up the lining of the pancreatic duct. Cancer also can occur in the Islet cells but is less common. Scientists contribute about 30 percent of pancreatic cancer to smoking (another reason not to smoke), and men are 30 percent more likely than women to get it. Symptoms of pancreatic cancer are Jaundice, Pain, Indigestion, lack of appetite, nausea, and weight loss. Pancreatic cancer is diagnosed in several ways. One way is a blood test but there is no single test for pancreatic cancer. Another way is with ultrasound. This test forms a picture based on sound waves that can be seen on a TV. It shows the size of the pancreas and the possible presence of a tumor. They also use CT scans with X-ray machines, which show how far the cancer has spread. MRI’s also do the same thing but without using X-rays. ERCP is a test tube, which is put down the esophagus, through the stomach, and into the small intestine. The doctor injects dyes and can see the bile and pancreatic ducts with X-rays. Treatments for pancreatic cancer vary. Sometimes, if a malignant tumor hasn’t spread, then they will surgically remove it. Another method is the use of Chemotherapy, which uses drugs to kill cancer cells. They are given the drugs through an IV and radiation therapy is sometimes also used to further kill the cancer cells. Radio therapy is the use of high energy X-rays to kill cancer cells. Treatment is 5 times a week and takes 45 minutes for 2-5 weeks. If surgery is used to treat the cancer then if the tumor is in the head of the pancreas, then they remove the right half of the pancreas and part of the stomach and small intestine. This is a long and complicated surgery and takes 6-8 hours. After surgery, patients can’t return to their regular activities until over 2 months after the operation. Also a small feeding tube called a jejunostomy tube or j-tube is placed into the small intestine. A high-calorie liquid is fed directly into your intestine through the j-tube. A second tube is added in the stomach called a gastrostomy tube or G-tube. This helps avoid nausea and vomiting after surgery.

Bibliography

The Pancreas. Pancreatic Center. June 9, 2000 .…...

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