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Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology
Volume 16 (2002), Issue 2, Pages 117-120
Focus on Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic Cancer: Who Benefits from Curative Resection?

HG Beger, F Gansauge, and G Leder

Department of General Surgery, University of Ulm, Ulm, Germany

Received 3 December 2001; Accepted 3 December 2001

Copyright © 2002 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Surgical resection is the only chance for cure of pancreatic cancer. Unfortunately, the majority of patients have grossly unresectable disease. Patients with stage I or II disease according to the criteria of the International Union Against Cancer (UICC) should be considered for potentially curative surgery. The goal of surgery is to remove the entire tumour with no residual disease (oncological R0 resection), which requires extensive resection of the surrounding tissues. Even if lymph nodes are histologically free of disease, molecular biological techniques reveal infiltration with cancer cells in 50% of cases. Therefore, extensive local resection combined with radical resection of lymphatic tissue, including lymph nodes around the head of the pancreas, retroperitoneal tissue and neural plexus around the great vessels, affords a longer median survival time than standard resection alone. Even patients with UICC stage III disease can undergo aggressive surgical treatment, but their chances for long term survival are low. Some patients develop severe diarrhea after circumferential removal of nerve tissue around the superior mesenteric artery. Adjuvant radiochemotherapy also provides a modest prolongation of survival. Despite these advances, the prognosis for pancreatic cancer is still poor, and spread of tumour within the peritoneum and to the liver is common postoperatively.