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Reference Guide


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The American Cancer Society has determined that pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer death, is the cause of 3% of cancers, and 7% of all cancer deaths in the United States. They estimate that in the US, 64,050 people will be diagnosed with, and 50,550 will die of, pancreatic cancer in 2023. According to the National Institute of Health, acute pancreatitis is also responsible for 275,000 hospital stays in the US each year. 

A number of illness concerns can arise due to a change in the state and functioning of the pancreas such as cancer, pancreatitis, and pancreatic insufficiency (malabsorption condition). Chronic cases of pancreatitis can potentially lead to diabetes and contribute to developing pancreatic cancer. 

The pancreas, as both an organ and a gland, produces enzymes for digestion and hormones for blood sugar control. It is flat and elongated, and lies horizontally behind the stomach. Pancreatic tests assess the status and functioning of the pancreas by exploring for the presence of specific hormones and enzymes. Some of these tests include Access Medical Labs' Insulin, Fasting, BostonHeart’s HOMA-IR w/Beta Cell Function, Access Medical Labs' Amylase, 24 Hour Urine, and Access Medical Labs' Lipase.

Pancreatic enzymes break down various food types namely trypsin and chymotrypsin for proteins, amylase for carbohydrates, and lipase for fats. Altered functioning of this organ can thus lead to malabsorption of these foods and damage the pancreas. The hormones produced by the pancreas regulate blood sugar with insulin lowering sugar levels and glucagon raising them. Disruption in gland functioning can lead to diabetes.

Diet and lifestyle practices can have significant influence on the development of a pancreatic disorder with alcohol consumption, obesity, and smoking increasing risks.

Patients with pancreatic concerns can present with:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Bloating
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fever
  • Tachycardia
  • Upper abdominal pain
  • Tender abdomen
  • Abdominal pain radiates to the back
  • Yellowing of skin and eyes
  • Loose, oily, clay-colored stools (steatorrhea)
  • Sudden, unexpected development of type 2 diabetes

What do Pancreatic Tests measure?

Pancreatic tests assess blood and urine samples to identify presence and levels of specific enzymes and hormones usually produced by the pancreas. A number of testing panels are available through Rupa Health such as the following examples:

A physical examination, health and family history, list of symptoms, and the results from pancreatic testing can help determine the cause of patient health concerns. Additional assessments such as imaging tests like ultrasounds, CT, ERCP, and MRCP, and stool testing may be required. A biopsy is likely for a potential cancer diagnosis.

Treatment Plans

Depending on patient assessment, test results, and severity of symptoms, hospitalization may be required and possible surgical interventions as needed. 

For severe illness situations, plans need to address immediate treatment with follow-up implementation of long-term care to prevent further deterioration to pancreatic status and function.

Some treatment plans can include:

  • Lifestyle changes to eliminate alcohol and smoking
  • Healthy diet to include nutrients, whole foods, and low fat foods
  • Diet and lifestyle to reduce weight as obesity negatively impacts the pancreas
  • Small amounts of clear fluid foods such as clear broths and juices can help with pancreatic pain - hospitalization and no oral consumption with severe cases


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