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Pancreatic Cancer and Surgery

Written by wordsmith.

Effect of Surgery on Pancreatic Cancer

In Stage 1 of pancreatic cancer, when the cancer is still localized in the pancreas and has not spread, surgery can be most effective. Sometimes surgery is also employed to remove a portion of the cancer in Stages 2 and 3 of pancreatic cancer. In these cases, surgery is combined with chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Read more details about Surgery.


Whipple procedure. The Whipple surgical procedure is done if the cancerous tumor is located in the head of the pancreas. The procedure involves removing the head of the pancreas, along with the gall bladder, bile duct, and parts of the small intestine and stomach.

Distal pancreatectomy. This procedure is done if the tumor is located in the body or tail of the pancreas. The body and tail of the pancreas, and the spleen, are removed.

Total pancreatectomy. This procedure is done if the tumor has spread to more than one section of the pancreas and beyond. The entire pancreas is removed, along with the gallbladder, spleen, the common bile duct, nearby lymph nodes, and portions of stomach and small intestine.

These are major surgeries that will require a hospital stay of about ten days, and then a gradual recovery at home for several more weeks. Side effects of surgery include exhaustion and sometimes pain, which can be controlled with medication. Removal of the pancreas, or parts of the pancreas, can make it difficult to digest food. In most cases, patients need to temporarily go on an all-liquids diet, and are fed at first through intravenous (IV) tubes.


National Institutes of Health. 2001. “What You Need to Know About Cancers of the Pancreas.” (Online booklet)

Mayo Clinic Staff. 2010. “Pancreatic Cancer: Treatments and Drugs.” (Online)

A.P. John Institute for Cancer Research. 2009. “Pancreatic Cancer.” (Online)

National Cancer Institute, U.S. National Institutes of Health. 2009. “Pancreatic Cancer Treatment.” (Online)

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