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How is pancreatic cancer surgery carried out?

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

With keyhole surgery, several small cuts (about 1-2 cms) are made in the tummy. A long thin tube with a camera on the end is put into one hole. The surgeon then puts instruments through the other holes to do the operation, guided by the images from the camera.Robotic surgery is similar, but the surgeon controls the instruments through a computer.

Keyhole surgery is still quite a new way of doing pancreatic surgery. Keyhole surgery for distal pancreatectomy is offered to a small number of people in some specialist centres. Sometimes surgeons start keyhole surgery and find that unexpected problems mean that they need to switch to open surgery.

There is no evidence that one type of surgery is better than the other for removing the cancer.

Find out about the different types of surgery for pancreatic cancer

Read about the advantages, disadvantages and risks

What happens before your operation?

What happens after your operation?

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

Peer support for people having surgery

Published April 2019

Review date March 2021

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