Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States and second only to colorectal cancer as a cause of digestive cancer-related death. Surgical resection is the only potentially curative treatment.

What is the pancreas?

The pancreas is an organ that in the upper part of the abdomen closer to the back.
The organ is vital for proper digestion and the management of blood sugar.

What is pancreatic cancer?

Pancreatic cancer is cancer that begins in the pancreas. Unfortunately, patients won’t notice this cancer in its earlier stages, as it doesn’t cause symptoms during that time. When symptoms do appear, they may include jaundice, loss of appetite, fatigue/malaise, weight loss. Some patients may also experience vague abdominal pain.

How is pancreatic cancer treated?

The specific treatment recommended for patients with pancreatic cancer will depend on the location of the primary tumor and the stage of the disease. Treatment may include surgery, radiation and/or chemotherapy. We will discuss all of the possible treatment options at the initial consult and formulate a plan that is best for you.

What surgical procedures treat pancreatic cancer?

One of the most common procedures used to treat pancreatic cancer is the Whipple procedure. This procedure is appropriate for patients who have a tumor in the head of the pancreas. The surgery involves removing the entire head of the pancreas, gallbladder, part of the bile duct, and the first part of the small intestine. The gastrointestinal and biliary system are then reconstructed.

If the tumor is located in the body or tail of the pancreas, a distal pancreatectomy may be the better option. During this procedure, the body and tail of the pancreas are removed.

Does surgery cure pancreatic cancer?

In cases where the cancer is in very early stages, surgery may be enough to cure pancreatic cancer. However, in many cases, doctors will recommend surgery along with other cancer treatments including chemotherapy and/or radiation. Adding these other treatments increases the effectiveness of surgical treatment and makes a cure more likely.

Who is a good candidate for pancreatic cancer surgery?

Every patient is different. Our surgeons can determine whether each individual patient is a good candidate for pancreatic cancer surgery based on the patient’s tumor location, cancer stage and other factors.