The pancreas is a vital organ that is situated in the upper abdomen, behind the stomach. It works closely with the liver and hepatic ducts that carry bile. The pancreas releases enzymes that aid in digestion food, especially fats and protein. The pancreas also secretes hormones that helps manage the body’s blood sugar.

When the pancreas and the surrounding organs are infected by cancer, surgery becomes a treatment option. Based on the location and extent of the cancer spread, one of three surgeries might be suggested by the doctor.

  • Total pancreatectomy: This involves the removal of the whole pancreas, part of the stomach and small intestine, common bile duct, gallbladder, spleen and lymph nodes.
  • Whipple procedure: Also known as a pancreaticoduodenectomy, this surgery involves the removal of the head of the pancreas, the duodenum (the first part of the small intestine), the gallbladder and the bile duct. 
  • Distal pancreatectomy: This surgery involves removal of the body and tail of the pancreas. Often, the spleen (an organ that acts as a filter for blood and where old red blood cells are recycled and platelets and white blood cells are stored) is also removed.