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Eight Ways Pancreatic Cancer Affects the Digestive System

Doctor examining digestive system

Like all cancers, pancreatic cancer can affect different systems throughout the body. One of the main functions of the pancreas is to release enzymes that break down food, which is why pancreatic cancer most often affects the digestive system. Learning about the possible effects pancreatic cancer can have on your digestive system can help you better understand what to expect and allow you to be on alert for these symptoms so that they can be managed as soon as they appear.

Eight digestive issues caused by pancreatic cancer

  1. Nausea and vomiting
  2. Loss of appetite
  3. Indigestion
  4. Feelings of fullness
  5. Poor digestion of proteins, carbohydrates and fats
  6. Diarrhea
  7. Obstruction of the bile duct, often causing jaundice (yellow discoloration of the skin and the whites of the eyes)
  8. Bowel obstruction

Dealing with digestive issues caused by pancreatic cancer

If you are currently undergoing treatment for pancreatic cancer, be sure to tell your physician if you are experiencing any of these digestive issues. Maintaining a positive quality of life is an important part of cancer treatment, so your physician may want to prescribe medication or modify your treatment plan to help lessen the severity of your symptoms. For example, certain medications can help relieve nausea, while pancreatic enzyme supplements can help to aid digestion. For patients whose bile duct or bowel is blocked by their tumor, a stent (tube) can be inserted to keep the bile duct or small intestine open.

Moffitt Cancer Center is here for you

At Moffitt Cancer Center, the multispecialty team in our Gastrointestinal Oncology Program has extensive experience treating patients with pancreatic cancer. As a National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, Moffitt continues to blaze new trails in pancreatic cancer research, and eligible patients may have the opportunity to benefit from the latest breakthroughs in treatment through our robust clinical trials program. To consult with one of our pancreatic cancer experts about your treatment options, call 1-888-663-3488 or fill out a new patient registration form online. Referrals are not required to come to Moffitt.