Patients Control Diabetes Even After Removal of Pancreas
When a pancreatic cancer patient is undergoing surgery, the physician tries to leave as much of the organ as possible to help the body produce some insulin. It was believed that if the whole organ was removed, unmanageable diabetes would result, but this often leaves the patient at greater risk of the cancer returning. New research shows that removing the entire pancreas results in blood sugar control equal to type 1 diabetes. The study, published online on the medical journal HPB Surgery, was conducted by Mayo Clinic in Florida.
The researchers followed study subjects over 14 years and found that the group that had type 1 diabetes faired just as well as those with their entire pancreas removed. Dr. Michael B. Wallace says that the findings should reassure both surgeons and physicians that removal of the entire organ is a viable option.
Dr. Wallace says:
"What has confounded surgery for pancreatic cancers and precancerous cysts for a long time is the notion that if the entire organ is removed, patients will have great difficulty in controlling the resulting diabetes. Most surgeons try to leave as much of the pancreas as possible."
For those with certain strains of pancreatic cancers, the risk of return is high. Leaving part of the organ in puts these patients at risk of having the cancer return, and at that point it may be harder to detect. But as Dr. Wallace points out:
"What we have shown here is that, due to wonderful recent improvements in insulin therapy, patients without a pancreas can control their blood sugar as effectively as type 1 diabetes patients can."
This research may ease the minds of both physicians and their patients. "Most surgeons today make difficult decisions about how much of the pancreas to remove in a patient, but that process may become a little more straightforward now that we have demonstrated patients do well when their entire pancreas is removed," said Wallace.