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Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Whipple procedure for pancreatic cancer

Whipple procedure for pancreatic cancer

The Whipple procedure, also known as pancreatoduodenectomy, is often used to treat cancer contained to the pancreas. Although it is a common treatment for pancreatic cancer, the Whipple procedure is a complex surgery that requires skill and training. Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) has surgical oncologists on staff with extensive experience in performing Whipple procedures.

Named after Allen Whipple, MD, the first American to perform the operation, the Whipple procedure involves removing the head of the pancreas and sometimes the duodenum, part of the bile duct, gallbladder and part of the stomach. After the surgery, the surgeon connects the remaining intestine, bile duct and pancreas to allow the body to digest food and expel waste.

In some cases, your surgical oncologist may also use intraoperative radiation therapy (IORT) in combination with a Whipple procedure. IORT delivers a single, powerful dose of radiation directly to the tumor site during surgery. This helps to reduce side effects, spare healthy tissues and reduce treatment times.

Patients undergoing a Whipple procedure are typically hospitalized for up to a week. Relatively few pancreatic cancer patients are candidates for the Whipple procedure. To be considered, patients must have a tumor that is confined to the head of the pancreas and has not spread or metastasized beyond the pancreas. Various tests are available to help our oncologists determine which patients are candidates for the Whipple procedure.

What is the Whipple procedure?

The goal of the Whipple procedure (also known as a pancreaticoduodenectomy) is to remove cancer in the head of the pancreas or bile ducts. In the procedure, your surgical oncologist will remove the cancerous tissue, remove portions of the pancreas, bile duct, small intestine and stomach, and perform immediate reconstruction.

Whipple surgery