Pancreatic Cancer: A Review of Surgical Treatment Options
More than 46,000 new cases of pancreatic cancer are diagnosed each year, many cases proving fatal without intervention.
Radiation therapy and chemotherapy are helpful alternatives, but despite the existence of multiple treatment options, surgery is the best method of treatment for many patients with pancreatic cancer.
While researchers continue to pursue less invasive treatments for this form of cancer, patients diagnosed in the early stages benefit from working with a knowledgeable pancreatic cancer surgeon to develop a treatment plan.
Get a head start and be prepared to ask important questions by exploring the most common surgical procedures.
Common Surgeries for Pancreatic Cancer
Depending on the details of a particular pancreatic cancer diagnosis, surgery may be the most beneficial treatment option. The type of surgery recommended will differ for each patient and is best determined by a pancreatic cancer surgeon. The following surgical treatments are the most common:
- Whipple Procedure. Ideal for removing pancreatic tumors on the head of the pancreas, a Whipple Procedure is often used if cancer has not spread to other areas of the body. This common surgical treatment, which can last up to 7 hours, involves removal of portions of the small intestine, pancreas, and lymph nodes.
- Distal Pancreatectomy. When a cancerous tumor is located on the distal, or thin, end of the pancreas, a removal of that section can prevent the spread of cancer. Generally less complex than a Whipple’s procedure, a distal pancreatectomy involves removal of the affected area and often the spleen, as well.
- Total Pancreatectomy. Recommended for individuals who have cancerous tumors in multiple parts of the pancreas, a total pancreatectomy includes complete removal of the pancreas, in addition to the gallbladder, spleen, and portions of the stomach. To prevent the reemergence of tumors, most of the lymph nodes are also removed.
All three procedures are considered major surgery and should be thoroughly discussed with your pancreatic cancer surgeon. Ultimately, catching pancreatic cancer in its early stages is the best way to beat the illness. However, determining whether you’re a candidate for pancreatic surgery depends on multiple factors.
Is Pancreatic Cancer Surgery Right for You?
Surgery isn’t for everyone, and only your surgeon can accurately determine your eligibility. In most cases, individuals with the following concerns are not ideal candidates for pancreatic cancer surgery:
- One or more large tumors
- Tumors near major blood vessels
- Tumors that have spread throughout the body
- Co-existing disorders that would make surgery unsafe
Because surgical treatment for pancreatic cancer can be invasive, there are significant risks that should be discussed with your surgeon. For advice on how to choose the best pancreatic or liver specialist, review the following tips.
How to Choose a Pancreatic Cancer Surgeon
Receiving a cancer diagnosis is life changing experience, and finding the right treatment provider shouldn’t add stress to an intense situation. Look for these qualities in a surgeon before making your decision:
- Level of experience. Review each potential pancreatic cancer surgeon’s education and surgical experience, and look for a doctor with significant experience effectively treating patients with your type of pancreatic cancer.
- Testimonials and referrals. Often the most helpful way to learn about a specialist, recommendations via patient testimonials – whether they’re online, over-the-phone, or in-person – will help you evaluate a surgeon’s expertise.
- Community and professional partnerships. Ask about a surgeon’s partnerships in the community, relationships with providers or care centers, and memberships in professional organizations.
A reputable surgeon will spend time exploring your medical options, explaining procedures and risks, and answering any questions you may have.
Choosing Your Pancreatic Cancer Surgeon
Finding a pancreatic cancer surgeon is simple. Dr. Mark Fraiman is a board certified pancreatic surgeon with more than two decades of experience. An award-winning surgeon, he is regarded as a leading provider of surgical interventions for pancreatic cancer in Maryland. To learn more about how Dr. Fraiman may be able to help you or to schedule a consultation, visit his website today.