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Can you live without a pancreas?

Living without a pancreas is one of the first things that comes to mind for most people who are advised to undergo surgery for pancreatic cancer.

After all, the pancreas is essential for digestion and regulating metabolism––key functions necessary for staying healthy and keeping your body in balance.

can anyone live without pancreas?

Without the pancreas, many may assume life would be impossible — yet, as science has advanced medical treatments, some patients have been able to live without theirs. But what does it really mean?

In this blog post, we will provide an overview of living without a pancreas – from its history and causes to common symptoms and available treatments – so you can determine if it’s right for you or someone close to you.


5 min read

Dr. Praveen Kammar


Consultant Surgical Oncologist

Watch this video to know, Why prevention is the best option for pancreatic cancer

Before knowing whether can anyone live without a pancreas, First, it is important to know

Why Do Patients Need to Remove Pancreas?

The pancreas is often removed due to chronic inflammation, and pancreatic cancer.

In some cases, the procedure may be necessary in order to prevent further complications and save the patient’s life.

Sometimes part of the pancreas may have to be removed during surgery that is being done for another nearby organ.

Also Read : 5 Early symptoms that might lead to Pancreatic Cancer

What Happens If You Don’t Have a Pancreas?

When the pancreas is removed, it can cause many problems related to digestion, metabolism and nutrition.

Symptoms depend on whether the whole pancreas is removed or only a part of it.

When the whole pancreas is removed – both digestive and hormonal functions are lost entirely.

The most important hormonal function is the production of insulin which controls blood sugar levels. Patients, in this situation, must take supplemental enzymes with meals to help break down food particles so they can get the nutrition they need.

Additionally, patients will require insulin injections on a daily basis in order to keep their blood glucose levels in check.

When only the head and uncinate process of the pancreas are removed (as in Whipple’s procedure) more digestive function is lost (60-100%). However, there is a 50% chance of developing diabetes.

When the body and tail pancreas are removed there is a 50-80% chance of developing diabetes and a highly variable risk of developing digestive enzyme deficiency (20-80%).

What are the Symptoms of Living without a Pancreas?

The pancreas produces enzymes and hormones ( most imp. insulin) that aids digestion and balances the body’s metabolism.

These processes will be affected when the pancreas is removed. Symptoms are related to a deficiency of digestive enzymes and a deficiency of insulin.

The type of symptoms also depends on whether the whole pancreas is removed or a part of it and which part of the pancreas is removed. 

  • Symptoms of digestive enzyme deficiency: 

Patients may experience a variety of symptoms, such as abdominal pain, bloating, indigestion, smelly stools and loss of weight.

These are due to the loss of digestive enzymes produced by the pancreas. 

  • Symptoms of insulin deficiency: 

Patients will develop diabetes due to the loss of insulin.

Common side effects of diabetes include fatigue, weight loss, increased hunger and thirst, and an increased risk for infections.

How is Living without a Pancreas Treated?

The main goal of treatment for those living without a pancreas is to provide adequate nutrition and keep glucose levels stable.

To meet these goals, patients will require daily insulin injections and enzyme replacement therapy with each meal along with proper nutrition counseling.

Additionally, doctors may suggest vitamin and mineral supplements, depending on the individual’s specific needs.

Living without a pancreas can be challenging but with proper medical care and treatment, it is possible to live a relatively normal life.

While it is important to understand the risks associated with removing the pancreas, patients should also consider the benefits of having this surgery and speak to their doctor about what options are available.

With adequate support, those who have had their pancreas removed can manage their symptoms and lead a healthy life.

About Author
Dr. Praveen Kammar

Surgical Oncologist


Years Of Experience

Dr. Praveen Kammar is an expert stomach cancer specialist in Mumbai. His main area of expertise aslso includes GI oncology, Gynecological cancers, minimal access surgeries, Robotics surgery, Laparoscopic Surgery, HIPEC.

Dr. Praveen has done more than 5000 surgeries in his expertise.

More About Doctor

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