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Last Updated: Jan 10, 2023

Whipples Surgery & Pancreatic Cancer - Know About Them!

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Dr. Suddhasattwa SenSurgical Gastroenterologist • 23 Years Exp.MBBS (Gold Medalist), MS- General Surgery (Gold Medalist), DNB - General Surgery (Gold Medalist), DNB - GI Surgery, Fellow Minimal Access Surgeon, Fellowship In Hepato Biliary, Pancreatic Surgery & Liver Transplantation, MRCS
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Pancreatic cancer is an aggressive form of cancer. The disease shows no early symptoms and often spreads to other organs long before it is properly diagnosed. Due to such poor prognosis, only around 6% of the pancreatic cancer patients are healthy and alive 5 years after the first diagnosis.

One of the most common surgeries to remove tumours from the pancreas is Pancreaticoduodenectomy, that is commonly called Whipples surgery. The primary aim of the procedure is to cure cancers or disorders that are identified in the pancreas, bile duct or the duodenum. Here, the tumour is removed to prevent it from spreading to other organs, thus improving the life expectancy of the patient. 

Whipple's Procedure

Before the surgery, an intravenous line will be injected to your arm, to provide you with the necessary medication. Medicines may be passed through this line to soothe your nerves. A spinal injection or an epidural catheter may be placed. This helps you to recover painlessly after the surgery.

The surgery can be carried out in different ways – 

Open surgery

Here, the surgeon makes a small incision in your abdomen to access the pancreas and other organs. This is the most common method. This is a complicated operation where the tip of the pancreas, the gallbladder, the bile duct and the initial portion of the small intestine are removed. It is performed to treat cancers that are present on the head of the pancreas. 

Laparoscopic surgery

Here several small incisions are made in your abdomen to insert a camera that transmits the live video of the abdomen to a monitor. According to the live feed, the surgeon performs the operation by using surgical tools. It is a common form of minimally invasive surgery.

Robotic operation

This is another type of minimally invasive surgery where the surgical tools are attached to a special robot. Here, the doctor uses a console to control the robot to perform the surgery. This is used because surgical robots can reach and operate in spaces and corners where the human hands may not reach during surgery.

 The Whipples surgery can take 4 to 12 hours depending upon the approach being used and the complexity of the process. During the surgery, you will be given general anaesthesia, so you will be asleep.

In some cases, a part of your stomach or nearby lymph nodes may be removed to treat the cancer growths. After the process, the doctor will reconnect the other organs so that you can digest food normally.

After the procedure, you may face problems while emptying your bowels. The condition improves around 7 to 10 days after the surgery. Most patients are able to return back to their normal life usually around 6 weeks after the procedure.

It is recommended that you follow the doctor’s instructions after the surgery and stick to the diet prescribed. Additionally, keep the incision protected from sunlight and remove the bandages only after consulting the doctors.             



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