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Pancreatic cancer surgery may be recommended if a patient’s cancer is determined to be removable (resectable), which generally means that it has not spread to blood vessels or distant organs. As the standard treatment for removable tumors, pancreatic cancer surgery can involve the removal of all or part of the pancreas and sometimes the surrounding lymph nodes, tissues and organs. The optimal approach for a surgical candidate will depend on the size and location of the tumor, as well as the patient’s general health and other factors.

The types of pancreatic cancer surgery that a surgeon might recommend include:

  • Minimally invasive (laparoscopic) procedures – A surgeon creates tiny incisions in the abdomen through which small, telescope-guided surgical instruments are inserted to remove small tumors and surrounding tissue.
  • Distal pancreatectomy – A surgeon removes the tail and sometimes a portion of the body of the pancreas, leaving the head of the organ intact.
  • Whipple procedure (pancreaticoduodenectomy) – A surgeon removes the head and sometimes the body of the pancreas, along with any other nearby tissues and organs that are affected, such as the surrounding lymph nodes and portions of the gall bladder, bile duct, duodenum, small intestine and/or stomach. To complete the pancreatic cancer surgery, the surgeon reattaches the remaining pancreas and bile duct to the small intestine to restore the flow of food, bile and digestive enzymes through the digestive tract.
  • Total pancreatectomy – A surgeon removes the entire pancreas, spleen, gallbladder, bile duct and portions of the stomach and small intestine.
Surgery for pancreatic cancer is dependent on the location of the cancer. Cancers in the head of the pancreas require a Whipple procedure, however, cancers of the body and tail require distal pancreatectomy and removal of the spleen.
Pamela Hodul, MD
Surgical Oncologist, Gastrointestinal Oncology Program

Why choose the pancreatic cancer surgeons at Moffitt

Because pancreatic cancer is relatively uncommon, a patient is advised to consult with one or more highly experienced surgeons who focus exclusively on treating cancers of the gastrointestinal system, keeping in mind that a surgeon’s skill level is further honed with each procedure performed. At Moffitt Cancer Center our surgeons treat a high number of patients with pancreatic malignancies. As a result, Moffitt is able to offer a refined level of expertise in surgery for pancreatic cancer that far exceeds that of other cancer centers, many of which see only a few pancreatic cancer cases each year. This has led to continually improving survival rates and a better quality of life for our patients. In fact, U.S. News & World Report’s Best Hospitals for Cancer ranked Moffitt as High Performing in terms of gastroenterology surgery.

To learn more about pancreatic cancer surgery and other treatment options, call 1-888-663-3488 or complete our convenient new patient registration form. Referrals are not required. 

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