How does pancreatic cancer affect digestion?
When you eat, your body breaks down your food – this is part of digestion.
The pancreas plays an important role in digesting food, as it produces enzymes that help to break down food. Nutrients from the food can then be absorbed into the blood and used by the body. Different pancreatic enzymes help to break down foods containing fat, protein and carbohydrate.
Pancreatic cancer can affect how well your body can digest food.
Pancreatic cancer can reduce the number of enzymes that your pancreas makes. It can also block the enzymes from getting to the bowel, where they are needed for digestion. For example, the cancer can block the pancreatic duct, which carries the enzymes from the pancreas to the small intestine.
Having surgery to remove all the cancer may also affect the number of enzymes that the pancreas makes.
This means that food is not properly digested, and the nutrients in the food aren’t absorbed. This is called malabsorption. It can cause symptoms, including losing weight, losing your appetite, tummy discomfort, bloating, wind, diarrhoea and other changes to your bowel habits.
These symptoms can be managed with pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy (PERT).
If you have any problems with your diet or digestion, speak to your doctor, nurse or dietitian.