Hello, we are Lynne and Jeni, specialist pancreatic cancer nurses. We are here to help those with pancreatic cancer deal with symptoms as best as possible.
In this blog we wanted to give you some more detailed information on one of the most common issues – digestion, weight loss and diabetes.
Problems with digestion
Having pancreatic cancer can affect what you eat and how well you digest your food. The pancreas produces enzymes, which break down food so that all the nutrients in it are absorbed into your body. Nutrients include protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals. Pancreatic cancer can reduce the amount of enzymes your body makes, and this causes problems with digestion.
It is common for people with pancreatic cancer to get symptoms caused by problems digesting food, such as:
- losing your appetite
- losing weight, or struggling to put weight back on
- indigestion or heartburn
- runny poo (diarrhoea)
- finding it harder to poo (constipation)
- pale, oily, floating poo (steatorrhoea)
- tummy pain or discomfort
- bloating or wind
- feeling full up quickly
- feeling sick needing to poo quickly, especially after eating.
Read more about these diet symptoms.
Many of these problems can be managed with pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy (PERT). You may have heard of Creon or Nutrizym, which are common types of PERT.
PERT is capsules you take with your food. It helps to replace the enzymes that your pancreas would normally make. The capsules help you to digest your food and absorb all the calories and nutrients you need. Taking PERT can help manage digestion symptoms and make a big difference to how you feel. Most people with pancreatic cancer will benefit from taking PERT.
If you are someone who has had surgery to remove all or part of the pancreas, this may also affect the number of enzymes that the pancreas makes. So you may need to take PERT.
The pancreas also produces hormones called insulin and glucagon to control blood sugar levels in the body. Pancreatic cancer can reduce the amount of these hormones, which can cause diabetes.