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Pancreatic Cancer Surgery Successful in 80-Year-Olds

here is a mass that is resectable in the pancreas, chances are that we can take it out safely and the patient will do well,” Dr. Yeo says. “As the population ages, more individuals may be eligible for such surgery.”

The five-year survival of those who were operated on for cancer is comparable to the general population, he says. “In the general population, five-year survival in healthy individuals at age 80 is 69 percent. In our study, it was 55 percent, which isn’t that much different.”

For various reasons, many of those older than 80 have been told they are not candidates for pancreatic cancer surgery. “Whether it was because of other health issues, poor scans or just a mindset that operating on the pancreas after age 80 doesn’t make much sense, there have been reasons not to operate on these individuals.

“The take home message is, if an experienced group of surgeons safely perform the right operation, the patient likely will do fine,” Dr. Yeo says. “Patients usually can leave the hospital in a week and can be on a survival curve that approaches the normal curve of the general population.”

According to Dr. Yeo, new imaging techniques, improved early detection and screening of high-risk groups, and new therapies on the horizon have begun to change the way pancreatic cancer is viewed. “We’re actually making great progress when it comes to pancreatic cancer,” he says.

Pancreatic cancer, the fifth-leading cause of cancer death in this country, takes some 30,000 lives a year. The disease is difficult to treat, particularly because it is frequently detected after it has spread to other areas on the body. Only 4 percent of all individuals with pancreatic cancer live for five years after diagnosis, and approximately 25 percent of those diagnosed with pancreatic cancer who undergo successful surgical removal of their disease live at least that long. But recent figures give new hope: of those who live for five years
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