Can surgery help remove cancer from a pancreas?

Dr. Alan Koffron
Dr. Alan Koffron

Q: Can surgery help remove cancer from my pancreas?

A: Hepato-pancreato-biliary surgery focuses specifically on the liver, pancreas and the bile duct system that connects the two vital organs. Conditions treated by the surgery include liver tumors, pancreas tumors and gallbladder/bile duct tumors. This specialty originated in the late 1990s as a result of vast advances in the understanding of diseases and cancer of these organs, innovations in surgical treatments and the development of minimally invasive surgery on these organs.

Diseases of the liver, bile duct and pancreas can be genetic, and because early identification and treatment is key in these oftentimes lethal -- and frequently insidious -- conditions, notifying your physician and appropriate screening could save many lives. For example, bile duct cancer may be familial, frequently only noticed once a patient turns jaundiced, and is then difficult to remove and survive.

Symptoms of hepato-pancreato-biliary disease include, itching (bile acid build-up), jaundice (bile flow blockage), pain in upper abdomen, unexplained weight loss, dark urine or light-colored stools.

In the past two decades, treatment options have blossomed to include surgery (80% minimally invasive removal), liver-directed therapy (tumor ablation, tumor arterial embolization with chemotherapy or radiation therapy beads) and highly effective chemotherapy before surgery to enhance surgical outcomes and lower recurrence of cancers.

Patients who think they may have issues should consult their primary care physician for a potential surgical referral.

Dr. Alan Koffron is a transplant and hepatobiliary surgeon with University Surgical Associates and a member of the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Medical Society.

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