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Diabetes Management

There are two types of diabetes:

Type I (formerly known as "juvenile" diabetes) occurs when the pancreas either produces no insulin at all, or produces an insignificant amount to handle blood sugar. Type I diabetes, which typically strikes people under 30 but can occur at any age, can only be treated with insulin.

Type II (sometimes called "adult onset" diabetes) occurs when the pancreas produces insulin, but the body has become resistant to it. Obesity is a major cause of insulin resistance. Fat cells are literally stretched and lose their insulin receptors, so they cannot absorb the blood sugar. Type II diabetes can be managed with healthy eating, regular exercise (at least 5-7 days a week), oral medications and/or insulin when necessary.

Diabetes & Cancer

Certain types of cancer may lead to an increased risk of both Type I and Type II diabetes, including pancreas, liver and colorectal cancers. However, the cancer-diabetes connection is still being explored by researchers.

Although cancer treatments don’t cause diabetes, high blood sugar must be aggressively managed during treatment. Radiation therapy, steroids and certain chemotherapy drugs can cause blood sugar levels to rise. 

For cancer patients with pre-existing diabetes, their doctor may have to supplement their regular insulin with a fast-acting insulin to bring levels back to normal. For patients who don’t have pre-existing diabetes, high blood sugar levels are managed with a "sliding" insulin regimen, starting out with larger doses and then tapering off as sugar levels normalize. 

MD Anderson’s Internal Medicine Specialties department has a diabetes program to help cancer patients cope with their disease. Inpatients can be referred by their nurse, dietician or other member of their health care team. Outpatients must be referred by a doctor. 

© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center