Some people with early-stage pancreatic cancer can have surgery to remove it.

Surgery may also be used to relieve symptoms if the cancer is blocking the bile duct or the intestine.

Removing the cancer (resection)

Sometimes, all of the cancer can be removed surgically. This is a major operation. It is only suitable for people who have early-stage pancreatic cancer.

This type of surgery must be performed by specialized surgeons who are fully trained and have experience with this type of operation, which is why you may be referred to a specialist center for your surgery.

It is important that you discuss the benefits and risks with your surgeon before making the decision to go ahead with any type of operation.

Depending on the location of the cancer and how much the pancreas has been affected, part or all of it may be removed during surgery. One of the following operations may be performed:

  • Pylorus-preserving pancreatoduodenectomy (PPPD)
    Also called a modified Whipple's operation, this involves removing the head of the pancreas, most of the duodenum, the common bile duct, the gall bladder, and the surrounding lymph nodes.
    It is most commonly used in people with cancer in the head of the pancreas.
  • Pancreatoduodenectomy or Whipple's operation
    This is similar to the PPPD, though it involves also removing the lower part of the stomach.
  • Pancreatectomy, or removal of the entire pancreas.
  • Distal pancreatectomy, or removal of the lower end (body and tail) of the pancreas.