Diabetes Health Staff
Over the years we have watched as bariatric surgery has gone from being a radical treatment for morbid obesity ( a BMI of 35+) to becoming a possibly routine voluntary treatment for type 2 diabetes.
The reason why is that researchers noticed early on that in addition to dramatic losses in weight, a majority of obese type 2 diabetes patients experienced a remarkable decline in their diabetes symptoms. This included the disappearance of all the conventional markers used to diagnose type 2: high A1c’s, high daily blood sugar measurements, insulin resistance, hypoglycemia, neuropathy, etc.
The science community, understandably reluctant to use words like “cure” or “heal,” does use the word “remission” to describe the surgery’s beneficial effects on diabetic patients. In many cases that description has morphed into “long-term remission.” (That last phrase means five or more years without any type 2 diabetes symptoms.)
Bariatric surgery is now a plausible candidate for becoming an accepted tool in diabetes management. Insurance companies are under increasing pressure to cover the procedure as something other than too extraordinary to pay for.
One more factor supporting the increasing resort to bariatric surgery is the news that it cuts the risk of pancreatic cancer in people with diabetes. Pancreatic cancer, which has a high mortality rate because it is most often diagnosed after the cancer has become well embedded in both the pancreas and other organs, is one danger that people with diabetes face.
A study conducted by the Allegheny Health Network in Pittsburgh, PA, analyzed the health profiles of 1.4 million medical patients, among whom 10,000 had undergone bariatric surgery. Researchers found that that patients who had undergone bariatric surgery were significantly less likely to develop pancreatic cancer than people who had not had it.
Pancreatic cancer affected less than one-fifth of one percent (0.19%) of patients who underwent bariatric surgery versus almost one-third of one percent (0.32%) in people who had not undergone it.
Admittedly, it is a very low percentage of people, either with or without diabetes, who develop pancreatic cancer. Still, the percentages reported by the Allegheny researchers are reassuring for people with diabetes, who must contend with a host of other health problems and long-term effects of their disease.