Why can pancreatic cancer cause diarrhea?

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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John A. Chabot
Endocrinology Diabetes & Metabolism
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. 

Continue Learning about Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic Cancer

Often asymptomatic in the beginning, pancreatic cancer is very difficult to diagnose and typically spreads rapidly to other parts of the body.Cancer occurs when abnormal cells form in the lining of the pancreas, an organ of the en...

docrine system that is responsible for making enzymes for digestion and for producing certain hormones such as insulin. Even though only 1 in 76 people develop this disease, it is the fourth deadliest type of cancer and is difficult to cure. No one knows what causes pancreatic cancer, and even the few known risk factors are not fully understood. Visit your doctor if you have unexplained weight loss, a loss of appetite, abdominal pain that radiates up your back, or a yellow tint to your eyes or skin.
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.