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Pancreatic Disease

Couple cooking togetherThe pancreas can be affected by a number of diseases including:

  • Acute pancreatitis: a sudden inflammation of the pancreas that causes severe upper abdominal pain.
  • Chronic pancreatitis: a progressive disorder that causes destruction of the pancreas; early symptoms include upper abdominal pain and diarrhea but in later stages this condition can cause malnutrition, weight loss, and diabetes.
  • Pancreatic cancer: cancer of the pancreas that usually causes jaundice, a yellowish tinting of the skin, with no other symptoms.


Diagnosis of pancreatic diseases depends on what condition the healthcare provider is looking for. It often includes a medical history, physical exam and blood tests. Visualizing the pancreas is an important step in diagnosis and can be done with CT scan, MRI or ultrasound. The ducts of the pancreas can be evaluated using procedures called endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) or magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP). Both procedures allow visualization of the pancreas, its ducts and surrounding structures.

Treatment Options

Treatment depends on the condition and can range from nutritional support and pain control for acute pancreatitis to surgery for pancreatic cancer.