When is surgery possible?

When is surgical treatment possible for pancreatic cancer?  Generally, if the cancer is localised to the pancreas, surgical treatment, via resection (removal) of the tumour, can be pursued. This means that the cancer has not spread to any blood vessels, distant lymph nodes or other organs, such as the liver or lung. These characteristics are determined through various diagnostic techniques such as a CT scan. Surgery does not guarantee cure and in general the larger and more diffuse the tumour is the less likelihood that surgery will result in clearance of the cancer.

Resecting a pancreatic cancer involves a major operation which carries significant risk of complications. The risks are in part related to the fitness of the patient and, in some patients, even though the tumour is potentially resectable, the risks of the operation can be prohibitive.

The decision regarding the appropriateness of surgery is therefore a balance between the success of the operation versus the potential for complications and even death. This is a complex decision usually made once all the preoperative tests have been completed

Resecting a pancreatic cancer involves a major operation, which carries significant risk of complications. The risks are in part related to the fitness of the patient and, in some patients, even though the tumour is potentially resectable, the risks of the operation can be prohibitive.

The decision regarding the appropriateness of surgery is therefore a balance between the success of the operation versus the potential for complications and even death. This is a complex decision usually made once all the preoperative tests have been completed and is a “committee” decision by all the specialists involved in pancreatic cancer care at the regular multidisciplinary team meeting (MDT).

For information on surgical procedures for pancreatic cancer, click here

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