Surgery to remove pancreatic cancer

This information is for people with pancreatic cancer who are having surgery (an operation) to remove the cancer. Families may also find it helpful. It explains the different types of surgery, how to prepare for your operation, what to expect, and recovering from surgery.

Coronavirus and surgery

If you are having surgery for pancreatic cancer, there may be some changes to treatment and precautions you need to take because of coronavirus.

If you have recently had surgery, you may be more at risk of getting ill if you get coronavirus while you are recovering from the operation. If your spleen has been removed, your risk from the virus may be higher as the spleen is part of the immune system and helps to protect against infection.

Read more about how coronavirus may affect you if you are having surgery
Our specialist nurse, Lisa, explains surgery as a treatment option for pancreatic cancer. She explains what it involves and what to expect when recovering from surgery.

The information in this section is about surgery for pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC). This is the most common type of pancreatic cancer. It does not cover surgery for pancreatic neuroendocrine tumours. Neuroendocrine Cancer UK has information about this.

Every hospital will do things slightly differently. Speak to your doctor, surgeon or nurse (the clinical nurse specialist or CNS) if you have any questions about surgery.

Key facts

  • Surgery to remove pancreatic cancer can help people live longer.
  • Surgery is only suitable for people who are fit enough to have the operation and if there is no sign the cancer has spread.
  • There are different types of surgery. The type you have will depend on where the cancer is.
  • Removing the pancreas may cause problems with digestion, weight loss and fatigue. You may also get diabetes.
  • The cancer itself can also cause these symptoms. Your medical team can help manage these.
  • You may be offered chemotherapy after surgery. This is to reduce the chances of the cancer coming back.
  • It will take time to recover after surgery. Usually it takes at least a few months and sometimes up to a year, but this is different for everyone.
  • You and your family can get support from our specialist nurses by calling our free Support Line on 0808 801 0707 or by contacting them online.

Read our fact sheet about surgery

To read more about surgery for pancreatic cancer, download our fact sheet, Surgery to remove pancreatic cancer.

You can also order a physical copy.

Order our fact sheet
PCUK Surgery fact sheet 2021

Where can I get more information and help?

Surgery to remove pancreatic cancer is a big operation and can affect your feelings as well as your body. But there is support available.

If you able to have surgery, or have had it, our Side by Side telephone service gives you the chance to speak to someone  else who has had surgery.

You can also read stories from people who have had surgery in our Real Life Stories.

You can speak to our nurses on our free Support Line about any questions or concerns you may have about surgery.

Read more about coping with pancreatic cancer

Published November 2021

Review date November 2023