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Pancreatic Cancer: Understanding Your Options – Whipple Procedure

Pancreatic Cancer: Understanding Your Options - Whipple ProcedureOver 55, 400 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer each year and unfortunately the number of deaths from pancreatic cancer each year is approximately 44,300. If caught early enough, the survival rate increases greatly

Whipple Procedure
For those that have a tumor(s) in the right section of their pancreas, there is an advanced surgical technique called the Whipple Procedure. The Whipple procedure is named after Allen Oldfather Whipple, MD, a Columbia University surgeon who was the first American to perform the operation in 1935. This procedure involves removing the head of the pancreas (approximately 1/3 to ½ of the pancreas), the first foot of the small intestine (duodenum), the bile duct, gallbladder, and sometimes part of the stomach. Afterward, the remaining intestine is used to reconnect the bile duct, pancreas, and stomach to allow for normal digestion.

Determining your Suitability
The first step is to determine where and how advanced the pancreatic cancer and tumors are. If the cancer has spread into other organs, then other treatment such as chemotherapy, radiation and possibly palliative are practical.

If the candidate is eligible for the Whipple Procedure, an experienced pancreatic surgeon should perform the procedure. After the Whipple procedure was introduced, many surgeons were reluctant to perform it because it had a high death rate. As recently as the 1970s, up to 25% of patients either died during the surgery or shortly thereafter.

Since then, improvements in diagnosis, staging, surgical techniques, anesthesia, and postoperative care have reduced the short-term death rate to less than 4% in patients whose operation is performed at cancer centers by experienced surgeons. At some major centers, the reported death rate is less than 1%. But the rate may still be above 15% in patients who are treated by less experienced surgeons.

The Procedure
The Whipple procedure is a complex operation that requires great technical skill and experience. Studies have shown that optimal outcomes are obtained only in the hands of high volume surgeons. When undertaken by dedicated pancreatic surgeons, the Whipple procedure carries a risk of death of <5%. Complications are still common after the operation, but the experienced pancreatic surgeon is able to lead a team that can safely manage these complications and lead to a full recovery. Knowledge of the complex anatomy, sound technical skills, and experience with the recovery process allows the Whipple procedure to be safely undertaken on even elderly and high risk patients.

About Dr. Mark Bloomston
Dr. Mark Bloomston is a native Floridian born in Tampa and raised in Ft. Myers. During his General Surgery training at the University of South Florida he spent 2 additional years doing basic science research focused on pancreatic cancer. He then moved to Columbus, Ohio where he completed additional training in Surgical Oncology at Ohio State University. He stayed at OSU for another 9 years where he became a tenured Associate Professor and served as the Surgical Oncology Fellowship Program Director and the Medical Director of the GI Cancer Service Line for The James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute. Dr. Bloomston maintained a national presence during his academic career publishing over 170 peer-reviewed articles and serving on the NCI Neuroendocrine task force and the NCCN Hepatobiliary guidelines committee. He has been ranked in the top 10 percentile for patient satisfaction and has been considered one of the nation’s top doctors by US News and World Report and Castle-Connolly.

About Dr. Bassan J. Allan
Dr. Bassan Allan is a Surgical oncologist and Board Certified General Surgeon who completed his training at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in Complex General Surgical Oncology. Following surgical residency graduation at the University of Miami, he joined UPMC in Pittsburgh, PA, where he focused on minimally invasive Hepato-Pancreato-Biliary surgery and the treatment of complex gastrointestinal cancers. He has subsequently relocated to Fort Myers where he is proud to join South Florida Surgical Oncology & 21st Century Oncology.

Mark Bloomston, MD
Surgical Oncology

Bassan J. Allan, MD
Surgical Oncology


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