A diagnosis of pancreatic cancer can be devastating because it is often discovered after it has spread beyond the pancreas to other blood vessels, lymph nodes or organs. At that point, treatment options are limited. Only about 20 to 30 percent of patients, like O’Day, are diagnosed when the cancer can be successfully removed, explained Perez.
The Whipple procedure, or pancreatoduodenectomy, is the only possible chance for a cure. The aggressive, difficult procedure is recommended when the pancreatic cancer is confined to the head of the pancreas. To remove the tumor, the surgical team must remove parts of the pancreas, the small intestine and gallbladder, then reconstruct the remaining portions so they can function.
“Because of its dramatic impact on patients’ lives, we do our best to minimize the side effects of the surgical intervention and maximize the benefits,” Perez said. “That is why performing this procedure using minimally invasive techniques is so important.”