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How is surgery carried out?

You may have your operation as open surgery or as keyhole (laparoscopic) surgery. Open surgery is when one large cut (incision) is made in the abdomen.

Keyhole surgery is when several small cuts (about 1-2 cms) are made in the abdomen. A long thin tube with a camera on the end is inserted through one hole. The surgeon then inserts instruments through the other holes to do the operation, guided by the images from the camera.

Keyhole surgery is still quite a new way of doing pancreatic surgery. People may recover from keyhole surgery more quickly compared to open surgery, but more research into this is needed. Sometimes surgeons start keyhole surgery and find that they can’t do it as keyhole. If this happens your surgeon will switch to open surgery.

Preparing for your operation

Surgery should only be carried out in specialist centres in the UK where there is a specialist team to treat pancreatic cancer. It is done by surgeons who are trained and experienced in pancreatic surgery.

You will need to be fit enough for surgery, and will have tests to check this. Try to eat as well as possible in the weeks before your operation, and stay as active as possible. People with pancreatic cancer often lose a lot of weight. You may need to put weight back on before you can have surgery. You may need pancreatic enzyme supplements before surgery to help with this. Speak to your doctor or nurse about this - you should also be referred to a dietitian.

You will go into hospital either the day before or the morning of your operation. Most operations to remove pancreatic cancer take four to seven hours.

Who can have surgery?

Types of surgery to remove pancreatic cancer

Advantages and disadvantages of pancreatic cancer surgery

Recovering from surgery

Side effects of surgery for pancreatic cancer

Check-ups after surgery

Back to Surgery for operable pancreatic cancer

Published February 2017

Review date February 2019

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