Surgery for pancreatic cancer

Surgery for pancreatic cancer falls into two main categories:

  • surgery to completely remove the cancer
  • surgical or interventional procedures (e.g. stent insertion and bypass surgery) that don't remove the cancer but help to relieve symptoms.

To make a decision about what sort of surgery may be possible the surgeon in your treatment team will use the results of your tests and investigations to look at:

  • how big the tumour is
  • where it is in the pancreas
  • whether the cancer is in the tissues or lymph nodes around the pancreas
  • whether any of the major blood vessels around the pancreas are involved
  • whether the cancer has spread to other parts of your body
  • whether you are fit enough for major abdominal surgery.

Decisions about surgery also depend on the type of pancreatic cancer you have. You are most likely to have an exocrine cancer, as these make up 95% of all pancreatic cancers. The most common type of exocrine tumour is pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma. Exocrine cancers may be treated with any of the surgical procedures described in this section. People with rarer endocrine cancers (also known as NETs or PNETs) may also have other surgical options available - you can find out more from the NET Patient Foundation.