Surgical Procedure Helps Man Beat the Odds, Whip Pancreatic Cancer

Friday, January 6, 2012

His daughter says he has nine lives, and Hazlehurst, Miss. native Sammy Myers agrees. A 22-year survivor of pancreatic cancer, Myers' determination to live, combined with surgery by Randy Voyles, MD, means he's whipped this cancer and enjoying life at 82 years of age.

Dr. Voyles, a surgeon at Baptist Medical Center in Jackson, Miss., performed the Whipple Procedure, also called a pancreaticoduodenectomy, on Myers when he was diagnosed in 1990. This surgery is the most commonly performed operation to treat pancreatic cancer, which typically has very poor survival rates.

"The Whipple procedure surgery is complicated and can take up to five hours in surgery," added Dr. Voyles. "But it really provides the best hope in fighting pancreatic cancer. If surgery can be performed, the average survival rate is 18 to 20 months. The overall five-year survival rate is about 5 to 10 percent, although this can rise as high as 20% to 25% if the tumor is removed completely and before cancer has spread to lymph nodes. The only chance for cure is with surgery."

During the Whipple procedure, the head, and sometimes the body of the pancreas is removed, along with the duodenum and gallbladder, part of the jejunum, stomach bile duct and lymph nodes near the pancreas. The remaining bile duct is then attached to the small intestine to allow bile from the liver to continue entering the small intestine.

"We take pride in the sophisticated team here at Baptist that has been recognized by HealthGrades as one of the best hospitals in the US to have these operations," said Randy Voyles, MD.

This operation was invented in the 1930s by surgeon Allen Oldfather Whipple. In its early years, mortality rates were unacceptably high, but by the mid 1980s, through advances in anesthesiology, more appropriate patient selection, and refined training of specialist surgeons, it became a much safer procedure. 

Myers added, "I love life, and I'm just determined to keep going."

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