The pancreas is a large gland behind the stomach and next to the small intestine. The pancreas does two main things

  • It releases powerful digestive enzymes into the small intestine to aid the digestion of food.
  • It releases the hormones insulin and glucagon into the bloodstream. These hormones help the body control how it uses food for energy.

Pancreatitis is a disease in which the pancreas becomes inflamed. Pancreatic damage happens when the digestive enzymes are activated before they are released into the small intestine and begin attacking the pancreas.

There are three main forms of pancreatitis: Acute, Chronic and Cancer of the Pancreas.

Acute pancreatitis is a sudden inflammation that lasts for a short time. It may range from mild discomfort to a severe, life-threatening illness.

Most people with acute pancreatitis recover completely after getting the right treatment. In severe cases, acute pancreatitis can result in bleeding into the gland, serious tissue damage, infection, and cyst formation. Severe pancreatitis can also harm other vital organs such as the heart, lungs, and kidneys.

Surviving the first acute attack is the most difficult and sadly age does come into this as a major factor. If you are in the later stages of life you are more likely to not survive this first attack as the pain from the attack causes the body to go into shock with major organ failure following.

Chronic pancreatitis is long-lasting inflammation of the pancreas. It most often happens after an episode of acute pancreatitis.

Alcohol sensitivity is a major trigger for acute pancreatitis. Those with Chronic pancreatitis must accept they have to live a life of total abstention from any form of alcohol. This could also include mouthwash as it contains alcohol that is absorbed through the cheeks.

Communion wine is another issue as the alcohol sensitivity means you may go days or even years before the accumulative effect of the single drink triggers another possibly fatal attack.

Damage to the pancreas may not cause symptoms for many years, but then the person may suddenly develop severe pancreatitis symptoms.

The cause of pancreatic cancer is not known, although in the case of ductal-type cancer there is an association with smoking tobacco.

Most commonly cancers of the pancreas arise in the head of the gland. This has two effects.

  • First, the cancer blocks the bile duct leading to jaundice, dark urine and pale stools.There is sometimes itching of the skin due to jaundice which rapidly disappears once the blockage is cleared or bypassed.
  • Second, the cancer blocks the pancreatic duct leading to poor digestion, loose motions and weight loss. This can be relieved by clearing the blockage or by giving pancreatic enzyme tablets.

Diabetes may already be present in a number of patients prior to developing the cancer or become apparent soon after it is diagnosed or following surgery.

Comprehensive details can be found in the downloadable information pack