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Can a Person Live Without a Pancreas?

While it is possible to survive without a pancreas, physicians only suggest removing it when a patient has a significant health problem such as severe recurring pancreatitis or pancreatic cancer.

Without a pancreas, patients need constant medical attention and careful monitoring. In most situations, modern therapies can replace the pancreas. However, when the pancreas is surgically removed, an individual will have to adapt to lifestyle modifications.

What exactly does the pancreas do?

The pancreas is a gland in your abdomen, just below your stomach. It has a spherical head and a narrower, tapering body, resembling a big tadpole. An oval-shaped head curves into your small intestine’s duodenum. The pancreas’ body is located between the abdomen and the spine.

There are two different kinds of cells in the pancreas. Each kind of cell produces a distinct substance.

  • Endocrine cells produce Glucagon, hormones insulin, pancreatic polypeptide, and somatostatin. Glucagon causes blood sugar levels to rise while insulin helps to reduce them.
  • Exocrine cells generate enzymes that aid in digestion. For example, trypsin and chymotrypsin are enzymes that digest or break down proteins. In addition, amylase is responsible for the digestion of carbohydrates, whereas lipase is responsible for the breakdown of fats.

How long can I live without a pancreas?

The pancreas is an organ that produces hormones that are necessary for survival, such as insulin. Serious pancreatic disorders were deadly decades ago, but people now can live without a pancreas by taking the right medication.

Pancreatectomy is the surgical procedure used to remove the pancreas. The operation may involve partial, with just the diseased piece of the pancreas, or complete removal of the pancreas.

A full pancreatectomy, which involves the removal of the whole pancreas, also necessitates the removal of sections of the stomach, a segment of the small intestine known as the duodenum, and the bile duct’s end. In addition, the gallbladder and spleen may also be removed.

This significant procedure may be life-threatening and life-altering. A person will acquire diabetes after a pancreatectomy. In addition to changing their food and lifestyle, they will have to continue taking insulin for their entire life.

Diabetes is caused by a person’s inability to create enough insulin, so eliminating the pancreas causes the disease to occur automatically.

The body’s capacity to gain nutrients from meals may be harmed if the pancreas is removed. In addition, a person without a pancreas cannot live without artificial insulin injections and digestive enzymes.

However, according to 2016 research, roughly three-quarters of the population without cancer who had their pancreas removed lived for seven years. However, 7-year survival rates for cancer patients varied from 30 to 64 percent, based on the kind of disease and the extent to which it had progressed.

What will happen if your pancreas is removed?

You’ll have to consider making a few changes post-surgery. Diabetes develops when your body no longer produces enough insulin to keep your blood sugar under control. So you’ll need to keep track of your blood sugar levels and take insulin in injectable form at frequent intervals.

Your body will also be unable to produce the enzymes required for digestion. So each time you eat, you’ll need to take an enzyme replacement tablet.

Maintain a proper diet to keep healthy. You may consume a wide range of meals, but you should limit your carbohydrate and sugar intake. To keep your blood sugar level stable, consume meals at regular intervals. Take a glucose solution with you at all times if your blood sugar drops.

Include physical activity in your everyday routine as well. Maintaining an active lifestyle can assist you in regaining strength and controlling your blood sugar levels. Start with walking for a few minutes each day, and then ask your doctor whether it’s okay to raise your exercise level.

Why would a pancreas be removed?

The following diseases may need pancreatic removal surgery:

  • Chronic pancreatitis: The pancreatic inflammation grows worse over time. Pancreatitis discomfort may occasionally be relieved by surgery.
  • Pancreatic cancer: Cancer containing pancreatic part might need to be removed with curative intent
  • Injury to the pancreas: If the injury is severe, your pancreas may need to be removed.
  • Hyperinsulinemic hypoglycemia: High insulin levels create this disorder, which causes your blood sugar to plummet dangerously low.

Can the pancreas grow back?

According to US experts, a fasting diet may cause the pancreas to regenerate. In animal trials, restoring the organ’s function – which helps manage blood sugar levels – cured diabetic symptoms. Mice were fed a modified version of the “fasting-mimicking diet” in the trials. It’s similar to the human diet, in which individuals eat a low-protein, low-calorie, low-carbohydrate, and high unsaturated-fat diet for five days.


The prognosis for patients who have had their pancreas removed is dependent on the reason for the removal. If pancreatic cancer has migrated to other body parts, it may still need cancer therapy. Others find that having their pancreas surgically removed completely resolves their symptoms.

If you have any concerns regarding pancreatic disease, contact us now.


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