You can live with a single kidney, a spleen, an appendix or your gallbladder. You cannot live without a pancreas. The long, flat gland produces hormones, namely insulin, and enzymes, and is arguably as essential as the heart. The mention of pancreatic cancer turns any conversation deathly serious, very quickly. Acute pancreatitis, which raises one's risk for pancreatic cancer, hospitalizes nearly 300,000 people in the United States each year, and the mortality rate ranges from 10% to 30% depending on severity. The most common cause of acute pancreatitis is gallstones. The over-consumption of alcohol, however, is a very close second place, accounting for roughly 30% of treatable cases. Some doctors argue closer to 70% of cases are due to alcohol consumption.
The pancreas is essential to digestion. It is often overlooked because it cannot be viewed properly without surgery. This is part and parcel of pancreatic issues and the reason for the high death rates stemming from its malfunction.
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