LESSONS FROM PANCREATIC SURGERY
Pancreatic diseases, both the benign and malignant types, share some very unfortunate characteristics. They are hard to diagnose at their earliest stages when they are most likely to be reversed or cured, and despite enormous ongoing research we still have few effective drugs for either pancreatitis or pancreatic cancer. Surgery is often considered as a last resort for advanced or chronic pancreatitis in order to treat the persistent pain that affects most patients with this disease. For pancreatic cancer, surgery is the first line of treatment for tumors that appear to be localized, or not yet metastatic, as it is the only method with the potential to cure cancer of this organ. For both forms of pancreatic disease, the results of surgery are imperfect. This is due to the complexity of the surgery and the likelihood of progressive or recurrent disease.
Part of the problem with pancreatic disease is that most people don’t know much about the pancreas, and even those who are affected by these diseases have many unanswered questions and concerns when they are diagnosed. In over 30 years of my career in surgery, I had the opportunity to operate on hundreds of patients with both pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer. I want to describe some of these patients for you as they provide lessons that may be valuable to understand. The National Pancreas Foundation has provided this blog site so that I can describe a particular patient for you each month and discuss the lessons learned and the progress that is being made. I am sure that each case will raise questions that I have not addressed or answered adequately, and you are welcome to submit questions or concerns that I will try to answer as promptly as I can.
Dana K. Andersen, MD, FACS – Chair
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