Surgical Services

If your doctor recommends surgery for your pancreatic cancer, it will depend on the type of cancer in your pancreas, the stage of the cancer, the location and size of the tumor and your overall health. Pancreatic surgery can be complex and intricate, but at the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, our team is distinguished nationally for our ability to provide a variety of procedures and techniques designed for your cancer.

For the best outcome, you should be treated by a surgeon who has performed many pancreatic surgeries. In general, people having this type of surgery do better when it is performed at a hospital that does many pancreatic surgeries per year. At the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, 90 percent of our pancreatic surgeries are successful and lead to a complete resection due in part to our advanced techniques as well as our team approach with vascular surgeons.

There are a number of possible surgeries that can be performed to treat pancreatic cancer. If you need surgery, your doctor may remove your tumor and take out sections of the entire pancreas, portions of the small intestine or both.

The type of surgery your doctor will recommend depends on the type of cancer in your pancreas, the stage of the cancer, the location and size of the tumor and your overall health.

Pancreatic cancer surgery may be performed for two different goals:

Potentially curative surgery is used when imaging tests suggest that it is possible to remove all the cancer. The Whipple procedure (pancreaticoduodenectomy) is the most common surgical operation to remove a cancer of the exocrine pancreas.

Learn more about the Whipple procedure and other potentially curative surgeries for pancreatic cancer

Palliative surgery may be done if imaging tests show the tumor is too widespread to be completely removed. This type of surgery may be done to relieve pancreatic cancer pain or other symptoms or to prevent certain complications liked a blocked bile duct or intestinal tract.

Learn more about palliative surgery for pancreatic cancer

Several studies have shown that removing only part of the cancer does not help patients to live longer. Pancreatic cancer surgery is one of the most difficult operations a surgeon can do. It is also one of hardest for patients to undergo. There may be complications, and it may take several weeks to recover. Your doctor and other members of your health care team will discuss the potential benefits and risks of pancreatic cancer surgery with you.