Pancreatic cancer is a cancer that begins in the pancreas, which is an organ in the abdomen that aids in digestion and the management of blood sugar. In many cases, patients won’t notice this cancer in its earlier stages, as it doesn’t cause symptoms during this time. When symptoms do appear, they may include blood clots, diabetes, loss of appetite, weight loss, pain, and jaundice.
The specific treatment recommended for patients with pancreatic cancer will depend on the location of the primary tumor and the stage of the disease. Treatment programs may include surgery, radiation, and/or chemotherapy.
One of the most common procedures used to treat pancreatic cancer is the Whipple procedure. This procedure is appropriate for patients who have a tumor in the head of the pancreas. During the Whipple procedure, Dr. Patel removes the entire head of the pancreas, as well as the gallbladder, part of the bile duct, and the first part of the small intestine.
If the tumor is located in the body or tail of the pancreas, Dr. Patel may perform a distal pancreatectomy. During this procedure, he will remove the body and tail of the pancreas. In some cases, he may also remove the spleen during this procedure.
When less extensive procedures aren’t appropriate, Dr. Patel may perform a pancreatectomy. During this procedure, he removes the entire pancreas. After the procedure is complete, patients will need enzyme replacement and insulin therapy for the rest of their lives.
In cases where the cancer is in very early stages, surgery may be enough to cure pancreatic cancer. However, in many cases, doctors will recommend surgery along with other cancer treatments, including chemotherapy and/or radiation. Adding these other treatments increases the effectiveness of surgical treatment and makes a cure more likely.
Every patient is different. Dr. Patel and his associates can determine whether each individual patient is a good candidate for pancreatic cancer surgery based on the patient’s tumor location, cancer stage, and other factors.