Once a month, Tufts EMS has a “Dr. Sperling lecture,” a lecture on a topic of relevance to emergency medical technicians put on by our medical director, Dr. Stacey Sperling. She usually picks topics with specific relevance to one or more particularly interesting cases we’ve had in the last month. Today, her topic of choice was abdominal pain (with a brief foray into hypothermia). As an aid to the descriptions of various issues we may encounter (gastroenteritis, appendicitis, endometriosis, etc.), she had a few diagrams of the various quadrants of the abdomen, with emphasis on the right upper quadrant (RUQ). She picked through the various organs, giving brief descriptions and identifying which issues related to which organs. When she got to the pancreas, however, her descriptive style shifted. “This is the pancreas, an organ which I truly hate.” Apparently, the pancreas, an endocrine gland which predominantly produces digestive enzymes and has branches to produce insulin, is pretty obnoxious. It’s a large organ, spanning most of the upper quadrant of the abdomen, and is oddly spongy. It lacks a covering, so if a person contracts pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), it leaks digestive fluid into the whole abdominal cavity, inflaming the lining, damaging the other organs, and so forth. It’s located in an area which leaves extra space for it to expand, so pancreatic cancer is apparently difficult to catch and is usually only found very late. I think she may have had one or two other reasons, but I absolutely understand why these two are of particular relevance.
So now you know why you, too, should hate the pancreas!