Surgery is often the best option that enhances the survival of pancreatic cancer patients. Data has revealed that most surgeons have had great success with patients, without many complications when administering surgery. The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network has strongly recommended that high volumes of pancreatic surgeons perform these surgeries every year.

Here are the primary facts about the pancreatic cancer surgery:

  • Approximately 20% of patients with pancreatic cancer are qualified for surgery at diagnosis – The pancreas is located deeper into the body between other organs. Symptoms for pancreatic cancer are vague, making it impossible to diagnose the disease in its earlier stages. At times patients who qualify for surgery are turned away. It is strongly recommended that patients see specialized surgeons (those who perform pancreatic surgery at high volumes) for them to determine their eligibility for surgery.
  • Pancreatic cancer patients can undergo different types of surgeries – The Whipple procedure is the most commonly used type of surgery. It is performed on patients with a tumor that is confined to the pancreas head. The other surgery options for pancreatic cancer patients include distal pancreatectomy or total pancreatectomy. These involve surgically removing part or all the pancreas respectively.
  • Pancreatic surgery can be combined with other treatments – Patients with pancreatic cancer can also have radiation therapy, chemotherapy or any other treatment before their surgery. Neoadjuvant therapy is given before surgery while adjuvant therapy is what a patient receives after surgery.
  • The surgically removed tissue can define future treatments – Tissues collected after surgery or from biopsies can be molecularly profiled. Genetic changes and protein presence will be identified alongside other actionable alterations to help predict the response of the patient to particular types of treatments.
  • Surgery can also be palliative – Palliative procedures help to alleviate cancer symptoms such as pain, jaundice, nausea, and vomiting. Some of the palliative procedures commonly used are gastric bypass surgery, biliary bypass surgery, and duodenal stent insertion.

The tumor size and locale within the pancreas and other factors will determine the type of surgery a patient will undergo.