Cancer Research UK on Google+ Cancer Research UK on Facebook Cancer Research UK on Twitter

Surgery to relieve symptoms of pancreatic cancer

Men and women discussing pancreatic cancer

This page is about surgery to relieve the symptoms of pancreatic cancer. You can find the following information

 

A quick guide to what's on this page

Relieving jaundice

Jaundice is caused by your bile duct being blocked. It is usual to unblock the bile duct by putting in a tube that holds it open. This is called a stent. You don't usually need an operation to have a stent put in. A specialist doctor can put it in during an endoscopy or guided by an X-ray.

If this cannot be done, or it doesn't work for you, you may have an operation to allow bile to drain by bypassing your blocked bile duct. Your surgeon can cut the bile duct above the blockage and reconnect it to the small bowel.

Relieving a blocked digestive system

If your duodenum becomes partly or completely blocked by the cancer it can make you very sick. Any food or drink you swallow cannot pass through to the bowel in the normal way. You may have a stent put in to keep the duodenum open. Or you may have surgery to bypass the blockage. The surgeon attaches the part of your small bowel below the duodenum directly to your stomach. This allows food you are digesting to pass through to the bowel.
 

CR PDF Icon You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the treating pancreatic cancer section.

 

 

Relieving jaundice

Jaundice is caused by your bile duct being blocked. This can cause

  • Sickness (nausea)
  • Weakness and lack of energy
  • Itchy skin
  • Digestive discomfort and wind

It is usual to unblock the bile duct by putting in a tube that holds it open. This is called a stent. You don't usually need an operation to have a stent put in. A specialist doctor can put it in during an endoscopy or guided by X-ray.

If this cannot be done, or it doesn't work for you, you may have an operation to allow bile to drain by bypassing your blocked bile duct. To do this, your surgeon cuts the bile duct above the blockage and reconnects it to the intestine. This operation is called a choledochojejunostomy. This is nearly always successful in relieving jaundice. It is still abdominal surgery, so can take quite a bit of getting over. But it is nowhere near as taxing as the curative pancreatic cancer operations. And it can make a difference to your quality of life.

 

Relieving a blocked bowel

If your duodenum becomes partly or completely blocked by the cancer it can make you very sick. Any food or drink you swallow cannot pass through to the bowel in the normal way. So it collects in your stomach and you need to vomit it back up again. This type of vomiting can be quite forceful, but you feel relief afterwards for a while.

If this happens, you may have a stent (tube) put into the duodenum to keep it open. Or in some cases it may be possible to operate to bypass the blockage. The surgeon attaches the part of your small bowel that is below the duodenum directly to your stomach. This allows food you are digesting to pass through to the bowel. This operation will not cure your cancer. But it may enable you to live a fuller life for longer. You will need to talk carefully to your surgeon about what the surgery may achieve for you and about how your recovery will be.

Your doctor might also give you drug treatment to relieve the symptoms of a blocked bowel. There is more information about this in the section on treating the symptoms of pancreatic cancer.

Rate this page:
Submit rating

 

Rated 4 out of 5 based on 3 votes
Rate this page
Rate this page for no comments box
Please enter feedback to continue submitting
Send feedback
Question about cancer? Contact our information nurse team

No Error

Updated: 7 June 2014