Pancreas Cancer Surgery

  • William Cance, MD, FACS, is part of RPCI's pancreatic cancer surgical team. Dr. Cance is also Surgeon-in-Chief and Chair in the Department of Surgical Oncology at Roswell Park.

Pancreatic cancer can be cured if the cancer is confined to the pancreas and can be completely removed by surgery. For some patients, surgical treatment may be enhanced by shrinking the tumor first with radiation or chemotherapy before surgery, called neoadjuvant treatment.

Roswell Park surgeons perform a number of surgical procedures for pancreatic cancer. In certain patients, the procedure may be performed with minimally invasive, laparoscopic techniques.

  • Whipple Procedure: A surgical procedure to remove a tumor in the head of the pancreas.
  • NanoKnife irreversible electroporation, or NanoKnife IRE: Destroys tumor cells using high-voltage electrical energy. Multiple probes shoot electricity between them, poking microscopic holes in the cells, enhancing cancer cell death, but does not damage surrounding ducts and blood vessels. NanoKnife is very useful for treating small tumors in difficult locations.
  • Distal Pancreatectomy: Removes the body and tail of the pancreas, and sometimes the spleen, too.
  • Total Pancreatectomy: Removes all of the pancreas.
  • Biliary Bypass: If the cancer cannot be completely removed yet blocks the common bile duct or duodenum, the surgeons can create a bypass that allows fluids to flow through the digestive tract, helping to relieve jaundice and pain.
  • Endoscopic Stent: A blockage may be relieved by using an endoscope to place a stent, a tiny plastic or metal tube that keeps open the duct or duodenum.
  • Gastric Bypass: If the cancer obstructs food from leaving the stomach, a bypass procedure will allow the patient to eat normally.

Any of the surgeries for pancreatic cancer may also remove other structures such as the duodenum, gallbladder, bile duct, nearby lymph nodes and portions of the stomach.