Pancreatic Cancer Surgery: What Are Your Options?


If you’ve been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, chances are that the condition has already become fairly advanced. This is obviously a frightening thought — but the good news is that the surgical techniques for dealing with it are more advanced than ever, including, in some cases, minimally invasive approaches. The key lies in selecting the right surgeon for these delicate procedures.

The pancreas plays an essential role in food absorption and processing by producing digestive juices and hormones such as insulin. An elongated organ with a rounded head, tapered body and pointed tail, it’s nestled near other major organs such as the liver, spleen, bile duct and stomach. There are two primary categories of pancreatic cancer. Exocrine tumors (the most common variety) attack the glands that produce the pancreatic “juice,” while endocrine tumors, also called neuroendrocrine tumors or NETs, affect the parts of the pancreas that produce insulin.

Pancreatic surgery may be performed either to cure the cancer by totally removing it or, when a surgical cure is impossible, to relieve pain and other complications. Exocrine tumors are usually removed through a surgery known as a Whipple procedure. After removing the head or body of the pancreas, and possibly parts of the bile duct and stomach as well, the remaining parts are attached to each other to allow for the digestion of food. To remove NETs, surgeons may perform a distal pancreatectomy, a less extensive procedure in which only part of the pancreas in removed.

A Whipple procedure traditionally required a lengthy abdominal incision so the surgeon could gain access to the crowded collection of organs involved. Today’s “keyhole” techniques allow the surgeon to perform the procedure through several tiny incisions instead, using an elongated, camera-guided tool called a laparoscope. But this kind of surgery demands the highest levels of skill and expertise. Fortunately, our own Dr. Bhoyul is one of the very few surgeons in the country capable of performing both open and laparoscopic pancreatic surgery. Other surgeries, such as a double bypass or celiac nerve block, can prove invaluable for relieving symptoms even if your cancer cannot be cured.

The more skilled your surgeon, the better your chances of enjoying a successful outcome, whether you’re seeking an outright cure or simply the best possible quality of life. Contact Olde Del Mar to find out what Dr. Bhoyul can do for you.

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