When it is not just DKA; diabetic ketoacidosis as a first presentation of pancreatic adenocarcinoma

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Abstract

Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer related-deaths in the United States. Early symptoms of pancreatic cancer are nonspecific, and most cases are diagnosed at an advanced stage. DKA as a first presentation of pancreatic adenocarcinoma is a seldom reported condition. We present a case of a 59 year old female with type 2 diabetes, who presented to the emergency department with confusion, abdominal pain, polyuria and polydipsia. Laboratory workup showed a high anion gap metabolic acidosis and a blood glucose level of 419 mg/dl with positive serum ketones. She was diagnosed with DKA and admitted to the ICU. A CT abdomen/pelvis was performed to assess for pancreatic pathology as her DKA took longer time to resolve, it showed a pancreatic mass with multiple lesions in the liver. She had biopsies done which were positive for poorly differentiated pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma. DKA occurs less commonly in patients with type 2 diabetes. Common precipitating factors for DKA in type 2 diabetes include medication noncompliance, infection, or possibly treatment with SGLT2 inhibitors. DKA as a first presentation of pancreatic cancer has been reported more with endocrine islet cell tumors but rarely with adenocarcinoma of the exocrine pancreas. Studies have shown that diabetes is an independent risk factor for development of pancreatic cancer. Other studies suggested that diabetes might be a result of pancreatic cancer or a paraneoplastic effect. One study suggested that diabetes associated with pancreatic cancer occurs at a resectable stage of the disease.

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