Question

Pancreatic Cancer

Why can pancreatic cancer cause diarrhea?

A Answers (2)

  • AWesley B. Jones, MD, Surgery, answered on behalf of Greenville Health System

    The pancreas is a gland that aids in digestion of protein. It does so by secreting enzymes that break down food as it moves through the digestive tract. If the gland is obstructed by a tumor, it cannot secrete those enzymes. Therefore, the food is not broken down when it reaches the colon. That undigested food causes an increase of water in the intestines. This causes cramps and diarrhea. However, there are benign conditions that mimic these symptoms as well. 

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  • AJohn A. Chabot, Endocrinology/diabetes/metabolism, answered on behalf of Columbia University Department of Surgery
    Diarrhea results when the nutrients in food are not absorbed properly. When this occurs, stool can become loose, watery, oily and foul-smelling. Pancreatic enzymes are responsible for digesting fatty foods. If a tumor blocks the pancreatic duct, insufficient pancreatic juices in the intestines can lead to poor absorption and diarrhea, as the undigested food passes quickly through the digestive tract. If this happens, stool may float due to the higher fat content, appear bulky, greasy, and unusually pale. 
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