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Check-ups after pancreatic cancer surgery

Check-up after your operation

Your surgeon will aim to take out all the cancer and some of the normal tissue around it. This is called the surgical margin. The aim is to make sure that all the pancreatic cancer has been removed.

After surgery, a doctor called a pathologist, who looks at tissue samples in a laboratory, will look at the tissue. They will check if there are any cancer cells in the surrounding area or lymph nodes. Your surgical margins will be either negative or positive.

  • Clear or negative: there are no cancer cells in the outer edge of the tissue that was removed.
  • Positive or involved: not all the cancer cells were removed and there are cells at the edge of the tissue that was removed.

You will have an appointment about two weeks after you leave hospital to get these results. You can also talk to your doctor about any side effects or problems you might be having and how to manage these.

You should be offered chemotherapy once you have recovered from the surgery.

Longer-term check ups

Your longer-term check-ups (also called follow-up) after your operation will vary depending on where you are treated. Sometimes after the first few check-ups, you may have check-ups at your local hospital, rather than the specialist centre.

Ask your doctor how often you will have check-ups.

  • You will usually have an appointment every three to six months after your surgery for the first two years.
  • After two years you may have an appointment every year or telephone check-ups for up to five years. This will vary between hospitals.
  • After five years your check-ups are usually done by your GP.

For these check-ups you may have blood tests and a scan before seeing a member of the medical team. Ask your doctor or nurse how often you will have these tests. You may also have appointments for support with diet, pancreatic enzyme supplements and other medicines, such as for diabetes.

The check-ups are a chance for you to ask any questions you have, for example about any side effects, or things that might be worrying you. If you have any problems you can ask for an appointment earlier. You can also contact your nurse for advice. If you get any new symptoms, contact your medical team – they should check what is causing them.

If you have chemotherapy after surgery, your oncologist (cancer specialist) may do your check-ups. Or they may be shared between the surgeon and oncologist.

If your check-ups find any signs that the cancer has come back, you may be offered further treatment with chemotherapy.

If you have any questions or worries after pancreatic surgery, speak to your doctor or nurse. You can also speak to our specialist nurses on our free Support Line at any time.

Find out about the different types of surgery for pancreatic cancer

What happens before your operation?

What happens after your operation?

Recovering from surgery

Read about the side effects of surgery and how these are managed

Published April 2019

Review date March 2021

Information Standard