Nowadays, there are two main types of pancreatic cancer surgeries available:
- Palliative Surgery
- Potentially Curative Surgery
The surgeon will only recommend potentially curative surgery in the event that he/she believes that cancer can be removed in its entirety. It is an operation that is difficult and just some surgeons can actually perform it. It is tough for the patient and can cause complications. Recovery is long and all patients have to thoroughly weigh all risks and benefits before making a decision.
Palliative Surgery For Pancreatic Cancer
Palliative surgery is considered when the cancer is too spread and cannot be removed completely. Its main purpose is to prevent or relieve symptoms. Pancreatic cancer can quickly progress and, according to healthannotation.com, doctors never recommend palliation major surgery.
The bile duct can be blocked when the cancer appears in the pancreas’ head. That will cause digestive problems and pain as the bile cannot reach the intestine. At the same time, bile chemicals build up in the patient’s body. Bile duct blockage relief can be offered through:
- Stent placement – This is not a surgery. A small tube known as stent will be placed right inside the bile duct. The purpose is to keep it open. An endoscope is usually used while patient is sedated.
- Bypass surgery – If the patient is in proper health, surgery can reroute bile flow from the duct to the intestine. The pancreas is bypassed. In this case a large abdomen incision is made. Recovery lasts a few weeks. Keyhole surgery is sometimes possible.
Stent placement is advantageous but bypass surgery brings in the following advantages:
- Relief offered is longer lasting.
- Pain is reduced.
- The option is available when stents cannot be placed.
Remember that biliary bypass surgeries are major operations. No surgeon will agree to perform it in the event that the patient cannot withstand it.
Potentially Curative Surgery For Pancreatic Cancer
Potentially curative surgery is a great treatment option, just as radiation therapy for pancreatic cancer. The problem is that just 20% of such cancers are confined to the patient’s pancreas when a diagnosis is made. When this happens, the cancer can be resectable but certainty only appears after the surgery is over.
This surgery type involves a lengthy recovery period and the surgeon can stop during the operation when he decides that it will not work as it was first believed. The good news is that long term success rate is much higher when dealing with pancreatic NET (neuroendocrine tumors).
The main purpose of such surgery is to treat cancer located in the pancreas head region. Curative surgery can be successful because such pancreatic cancer causes jaundice, which makes it a lot easier to find the cancer early and remove it.
Other Procedures To Treat Pancreas Tumors
Pancreaticoduodenectomy – Whipple Procedure
Exocrine pancreas cancer is usually removed with this procedure. The surgeon will remove pancreas head and in some cases other parts of the organ. Other parts of the body can be removed in the event that they are affected. What remains is attached to the patient’s small intestine and/or the stomach so that food can easily go through digestive tract.
Surgeons will remove pancreas tail or the tail together with a part of the body. In most situations the spleen will also be removed. The surgery is seldom utilized to treat exocrine pancreas cancer because when such tumors are detected, the cancer is already too spread. Vaccines are usually needed before the surgery as a removed spleen automatically means it is easier to get infections.
Just as the name implies, both the spleen and the pancreas will be removed through the surgery. This procedure is not often used these days as there is no documented advantage of removing the entire pancreas. People can live without the organ but there are zero islet cells left when the pancreas is removed so blood sugar level problems can appear.