Pancreatic cancer is known to be one of the most aggressive and difficult to treat cancers. Symptoms often do not appear until the disease is very advanced. Surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation are all used to treat it, but very often the outcome is not that positive. Many treatments are more about providing as much extra time as possible for patients to spend with family and loved ones. The Whipple procedure is a common surgery for patients with pancreatic cancer. It's complex, but it can offer something precious...time.
The widest part of the pancreas is removed along with the bile duct, gallbladder, and a good portion of the stomach. Everything is then connected back up to the intestines so the patient can still eat and digest food. It's not an easy surgery to perform or undergo and the recovery period is long and challenging. However, once healed, patients will sometimes have a respite from the progress of the disease and will enjoy a better quality of life for a period of time. It's not a cure, but the gift of time is most welcome for those patients who choose the Whipple option.