What is Pancreatic Cancer Surgery?

Pancreatic cancer is initially found in the pancreatic tissues. The pancreas is an organ that releases enzymes that helps in digestion and produces hormones that help to manage blood sugar.

Growths that occur in the pancreas can be cancerous and noncancerous. The most common type of cancer is pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma.

Pancreatic cancer is usually not detected at its early stage as it is asymptomatic at that time.


Only 20% of people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer are eligible to have surgery because most pancreatic cancers are detected when it has been already spread.

Surgery for pancreatic cancer is combined with systemic therapy and radiation therapy as adjuvant therapy. There are different types of surgeries, depending on the purpose of the surgery.

Two types of surgery can be used for pancreatic cancer:

  • Potentially curative surgery is done when the results of exams and tests suggest that cancer can be removed.
  • Palliative surgery may be done if the cancer is too widespread to be obliterated. This surgery relieves symptoms and prevents other complications.

Staging laparoscopy

To select the best type of surgery, the surgeon will know the stage of cancer. It is hard to detect the phase of pancreatic cancer laparoscopy to determine the extent and location of cancer.

The surgeon will make several holes through which a camera is passed into the abdomen. Through the camera, the surgeon can see the condition of the pancreases and other organs.

Whipple procedure (pancreaticoduodenectomy)

This is the most common operation to treat cancer in the head of the pancreas. The surgeon removes the pancreatic head and sometimes the body of the pancreas. Sometimes part of the small intestine, bile duct, gallbladder, lymph nodes, and part of the stomach near the pancreas are also removed. The left bile duct and pancreas are then connected to the small intestine so that bile and digestive enzymes can still go into the small intestine. The end parts of the small intestine are reattached to pass through the digestive tract smoothly.

Usually, a large incision down the middle of the belly is made.

A Whipple procedure is a complex one that demands an experienced and highly trained surgeon. This has some life-threatening side effects if any less experienced surgeon performs it.

Infections, bleeding, difficulty in stomach emptying, leakage between the organ connections, weight loss, diabetes are associated side effects.

Distal pancreatectomy

During this, the surgeon will remove the tail of the pancreas and some portion of the pancreas’ body. The spleen is sometimes dismissed as well, due to which there is an increased risk of infection. Before this treatment, the doctors recommend that patients get certain vaccines.

Total pancreatectomy

During total pancreatectomy, the surgeon removes the entire pancreas, along with the gallbladder, some parts of the stomach and small intestine, and the spleen as well. 

This surgery is extremely beneficial to treat widespread cancer. This surgery is used less often because it is not an excellent option to remove the entire pancreas. Without the pancreas, people may survive, but the sugar levels and digestion are affected.