PANCREAS SURGERY

The most common reasons to carry out this surgery are cancer of the tail of the pancreas, cysts of the tail of the pancreas – both benign and cancerous, chronic pancreatitis and swollen blood vessels to the spleen (splenic artery aneurysm). The spleen is commonly removed at the same time because the blood supply to the spleen is intimately connected to the pancreas. Cancer of the pancreas is a very serious condition that often presents itself when it is very large. Making a diagnosis of cancer of the tail of the pancreas, with a biopsy prior to surgery is generally very difficult and may not be possible. The pancreas tends to develop a great deal of scarring or reaction that interferes with interpreting a pre-operative needle biopsy. It is common to biopsy a cancer in this region and obtain a benign report. Thus, it is up to the surgeon's judgment whether or not the patient has cancer and would benefit from this surgery. The presence of cancer will be determined after surgery by the pathologist when they assess the pancreas under the microscope. A result from the pathologist can take anywhere from 2 – 7 days.


There are many reasons to operate on the pancreas including tumours, cysts or inflammation of the pancreas. The spleen is commonly removed at the same time as distal pancreas resections because the blood supply to the spleen is intimately connected to the pancreas. Cancer of the pancreas is a very serious condition that often presents itself when it is very large or advanced. Thus, it is up to the surgeon's judgment whether or not the patient has cancer and would benefit from this surgery.

The decision to proceed to this type of surgery is very complicated and this is the main reason why it is important to be operated on by a surgeon with a great deal of experience with operations for cancer of the pancreas. His/her judgment will be valuable in determining whether or not a tumor is present and if it is removable. Sometimes distal pancreatectomy may be done with keyhole surgery.

Sadly, there are cases where at the time of surgery the surgeon will determine that the cancer is not removable. This is commonly due to the finding of secondary cancer in the liver. Another reason may be the cancer’s relationship to vital blood vessels supplying blood to the liver. These blood vessels cannot be removed without threat to the patient’s life. If this is the case, the surgeon may not be able to remove the cancer. This will be discussed fully with you and your family after the surgery.

    WHAT DOES THE PANCREAS DO?

    The pancreas has two purposes.

  • It produces insulin to prevent diabetes.
  • It produces digestive juices to help your body absorb food

    Additional information regarding your surgery including:

  • Causes / Problems
  • symptoms / Treatments
  • Alternatives
  • complications / risks
  • What to expect after surgery
  • pain relief, drain tubes, eating, activities
  • wound care / incision
  • length of stay in the hospital
  • after discharge

... and other important information about your surgery is currently being updated and will be put up onto this page very soon.

Please have a look around the rest of the website for additional information and contact my offices if you have any questions or would like to make an appointment.