Pancreatic Cancer

What is Pancreatic Cancer?

Pancreatic cancer is a cancer of the pancreas. This is an uncommon but dangerous cancer.

What is the pancreas?

The pancreas is one of the major organs of the abdomen (“belly”). It is less well known compared to many other organs due to its hidden location. Its functions are to:

  • Produce enzymes which help in digestion
  • Produce hormones which regulate blood sugars (such as insulin) and bowel function

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Pancreatic Lesions

What are pancreatic lesions?

Pancreatic lesions are abnormalities in the pancreas which are often seen on scans. They represent an area where the tissues are different from the rest of the pancreas. These may be cysts, tumours or localised areas of inflammation.

Are all pancreatic lesions bad news?

Not necessarily. Some of these lesions may be entirely benign, with no possibility of turning malignant (“cancerous”), whereas others may be cancerous. Pancreatic lesions can be largely divided into those which are cysts (= fluid filled) or those which are solid.

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Pancreatic Resection

What is a pancreatic resection?

Pancreatic resection is the surgical removal of part of the pancreas. It is also known as a “pancreatectomy”. The most common reason why one might want to undergo this procedure is for the treatment of a pancreatic tumour.

What does a pancreatic resection involve?

As described in the section on pancreatic cancer, the pancreas is an elongated organ which runs from the just to the right of the midline to the left upper abdomen. On the right side, it hooks around some large blood vessels supplying the liver and also lies on the common bile duct which drains bile from the liver and is wrapped around the side by the first part of the intestines (the duodenum). On the left side, it touches the spleen. Due to these differences in the structures surrounding the pancreas, the left and right sided operations are very different.

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