The pancreas is a long, tapered organ that performs essential bodily functions related to our hormonal and digestive systems. It secretes the hormones insulin and glucagon, which work in tandem to monitor blood-glucose levels. And in terms of digestion, the pancreas secretes enzymes that help the duodenum (the first portion of the small intestine) break down proteins, fats, acids, and carbohydrates.
There are a number of actionable conditions that may appear in the pancreas. One such condition is known as IPMN, or Intraductal Papillary Mucinous Neoplasm. It’s a cause of pancreatitis (in other words, inflammation of the pancreas) in which cells lining the pancreatic duct become premalignant. When cells become premalignant, it means there’s a chance they could turn into cancer. And pancreatic cancer is a notoriously nasty iteration of the disease. The cells involved in IPMN make mucous and block the pancreatic duct, which is responsible for supplying the duodenum with digestive pancreatic enzymes.
IPMN cells secrete a thick mucus and look like long strands; while they’re benign, scientific evidence has shown that they frequently become malignant and invasive. Luckily, IPMN itself has a mortality rate that’s quite low.
Signs of IPMN could include:
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Abdominal pain
IPMN may be diagnosed a number of ways, such as MRI, CT scan, EU-FNA (a minimally invasive biopsy procedure), as well as endoscopic ultrasound (another minimally invasive procedure that’s used to visualize tissue).
Your treatment recommendation will depend on how involved your pancreas is with the condition itself. It could involve:
- Distal pancreatectomy: removal of the pancreas tail
- Whipple procedure: removal of the pancreas head
- Central pancreatectomy: resection of the middle of the pancreas; this procedure preserves the pancreas head and tail
- Total pancreatectomy: removal of the entire pancreas
Your physician will make the recommendation that’s best for you.
The Ezra torso and full-body scans screen the pancreas for cancerous and precancerous conditions, including IPMN. If you’d like to learn more about our screening options, you may do so at this link.