A pancreatic mass is any undifferentiated growth detected in the pancreas, usually on medical imaging. A number of terms used to describe abnormal masses (also known as tumors) in the pancreas. Masses can be described based on their physical characteristics, as defined by imaging studies, as solid (consisting of solid abnormal tissue) or cystic (cavities filled with mucus or fluid). Masses can also further be described based on their aggressiveness usually based on imaging and examination of their cells under the microscope as benign (no potential for turning into cancer), premalignant (some potential to turning into cancer) and malignant (cancerous). Masses involving the pancreas are being recognized more frequently, in part because of the growing use of radiology imaging. Many lesions found on the pancreas turn out to be benign “pseudocysts,” but a variety of harmless (benign) and malignant (cancerous) neoplasms (abnormal growths) can involve the pancreas and a multidisciplinary approach including good clinical history, imaging, and careful pathology is often needed to establish the correct diagnosis.
Pancreatic cancer arises when cells in the pancreas, a glandular organ behind the stomach, begin to multiply out of control and form a mass. These cancer cells have the ability to invade other parts of the body. There are a number of types of pancreatic cancer. The most common, pancreatic adenocarcinoma, accounts for about 85% of cases, and the term “pancreatic cancer” is sometimes used to refer only to that type. These adenocarcinomas start within the part of the pancreas which make digestive enzymes. Several other types of cancer, which collectively represent the majority of the non-adenocarcinomas, can also arise from these cells. One to two in every hundred cases of pancreatic cancer are neuroendocrine tumors, which arise from the hormone-producing cells of the pancreas. These are generally less aggressive than pancreatic adenocarcinoma.
Signs and symptoms of the most common form of pancreatic cancer may include yellow skin, abdominal or back pain, unexplained weight loss, light-colored stools, dark urine and loss of appetite. There are usually no symptoms in the disease’s early stages, and symptoms that are specific enough to suspect pancreatic cancer typically do not develop until the disease has reached an advanced stage. By the time of diagnosis, pancreatic cancer has often spread to other parts of the body.
The Whipple operation, also called a pancreaticoduodenectomy, is the most common surgical treatment for cancerous or benign tumors of the head of the pancreas, duodenum, ampulla of Vater or the common bile duct. It involves removal of the head of the pancreas, bile duct, duodenum, part of the stomach, and the gallbladder. North Cypress Medical Center in Cypress, Texas is among an elite group of hospitals across the United States offering the state-of-the-art fully robotic Whipple surgery.
Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer deaths . In 2015, the American Cancer Society estimates 49,000 people are expected to be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the United States. For those patients who are candidates for surgical resection, the Whipple procedure is potentially life-saving. Pancreatic cancer and its associated treatments are traditionally very debilitating for the patient. Now, with the combination of Dr. Ayyar’s advanced laparoscopic skills and the da Vinci robot by Intuitive Surgical, we are able to recapture the quality of life for these patients.
The fully robotic Whipple surgery requires a highly technical skill set that only the most advanced surgeons can carry out with success. The robotic approach enhances the operation with its three-dimensional portrayal of the abdominal cavity and surgical field, assisting the surgeon in making precise dissections and reconstructions. Since the operation employs minimally invasive techniques, patients have less pain, minimal blood loss, and without large scars. The robotic Whipple also allows patients who have cancer to start chemotherapy and radiation therapy sooner, which is vital in the potential cure of this disease.