Chronic pancreatitis: risk factor of pancreatic cancer

Pancreatic Cancer Action
Patient Information Booklets

What is Pancreatic cancer and how is it diagnosed?

This booklet for patients and carers describes pancreatic cancer, its causes and symptoms. It gives detailed information on the diagnostic tests used and the stages of pancreatic cancer. It includes a section on what to ask your doctor, where to go for further information and a glossary to explain many of the terms used.

Chronic pancreatitis is long term inflammation of the pancreas.

This results in damage in the form of scars and causes severe pain in the centre of the abdomen (tummy) and/or back. This damage to the pancreas can increase your chance of getting pancreatic cancer.

Chronic pancreatitis has many of the same symptoms as pancreatic cancer such as pain, nausea and vomiting, weight loss and loss of appetite. The damage to the pancreas can cause diabetes cells that produce insulin to be affected. People may also experience difficulty digesting their food, called malabsorption, as the damage occurs to the cells that normally produce digestive enzymes.

Because of the similarities between pancreatic cancer and chronic pancreatitis, it is important to use diagnostic tests such as a CT scan to rule out pancreatic cancer, especially in patients with symptoms such as the ones listed above.

Chronic pancreatitis is more common in people who have a history of gallstones, smoking or drinking a lot of alcohol. Rarely though, the disease may be genetic and caused by the inheritance of a faulty gene. This is called hereditary pancreatitis and symptoms develop in younger people than those with other forms of the disease.

You can reduce your risk of chronic pancreatitis by stopping smoking and drinking alcohol in moderation.

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