Our pancreas is a long, tapered organ that is responsible for essential bodily functions related to both our hormonal and digestive systems. It secretes the hormones insulin and glucagon, that work together to monitor the amount of glucose that is circulating in our blood at any given time. This is very important, because our blood-glucose levels must be stable, And when it comes to our digestive system, our pancreas supports it by secreting enzymes that help our duodenum (the first part of our small intestine) break down fats, acids, carbohydrates, and proteins.
Intraductal Papillary Mucinous Neoplasm (IPMN) is one of the many conditions that may develop in your pancreas. The condition is defined by a situation in which the cells that line your pancreatic duct become premalignant. In other words, there’s a chance they could spiral into cancer; pancreatic cancer is a particularly lethal iteration of cancer. IPMN may cause pancreatitis (aka inflammation of the pancreas), too. The cells behind IPMN’s development produce mucus, blocking the pancreatic duct which is in charge of supplying our duodenum (the first part of our small intestine) with digestive enzymes.
IPMN cells look like long strands and secrete a thick mucus; while these cells themselves are benign, scientific evidence has proven that they often become invasive and malignant. IPMN itself, however, has a quite low mortality rate.
Signs of the condition could include:
- Jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and skin)
- Abdominal pain concentrated on the right side of your body
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Night sweats
- Weight and appetite loss
- Stool that is light in color
The treatment route your physician suggests will hinge upon where the IPMN has developed in your pancreas; IPMN could develop anywhere in the organ. If it has developed in the tail of your pancreas, you’ll need a surgical procedure known as a distal pancreatectomy, while one found in the pancreas’s head will need a Whipple procedure or pancreaticoduodenectomy. There are also rare cases in which individuals need a pancreatectomy, or a complete removal of the pancreas. IPMNs found in the pancreas’s ductal branches are the most challenging to treat. Because of this, physicians often opt out of surgery and will watch the cells for signs of growth using imaging procedures. Luckily, IPMNs that develop in the branch duct have been scientifically shown to be less aggressive than IPMNs found in the main duct.
The Ezra torso and full-body scans will screen your pancreas for precancerous and cancerous conditions such as IPMN. If you’re interested in learning more, you may do so here.