New surgery offers pancreatic cancer hope

A London hospital has become the first in the UK to perform a new type of surgery for pancreatic cancer.

The Royal Free Hospital said the treatment could double the number of patients operated on in the UK each year. It is for those with advanced tumours that have spread to the portal vein, a major vessel into the pancreas.

Usually, this kind of cancer cannot be operated on. The new technique involves cutting out the tumour together with a segment of the portal vein and replacing it with part of the jugular vein. Kito Fusai, who performed the procedure in December with his colleague Dinesh Sharma, said it was a particularly exciting development for patients with pancreatic cancer.

He said the technique offered a whole new group of patients the opportunity of surgery for the first time. A total of about 700 patients are operated on across the UK at present. The patient operated on in December is recovering well.

Cancer Research UK estimates that, of the 7,400 people diagnosed with a pancreatic tumour each year in the UK, only about 3 per cent are still alive five years later. Symptoms include jaundice, back or abdominal pain, weight loss and loss of appetite.

The Dirty Dancing actor Patrick Swayze has the disease but his doctors say the spread is very limited.

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