How is jaundice treated in pancreatic cancer?

Updated: Oct 02, 2020
  • Author: Tomislav Dragovich, MD, PhD; Chief Editor: N Joseph Espat, MD, MS, FACS  more...
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Obstructive jaundice warrants palliation if the patient has pruritus or right upper quadrant pain or has developed cholangitis. Some patients’ anorexia also seems to improve after relief of biliary obstruction.

Biliary obstruction from pancreatic cancer is usually best palliated by the endoscopic placement of plastic or metal stents. The more expensive and permanent metallic stents appear to have a longer period of patency and are preferable in patients with an estimated lifespan of more than 3 months. Plastic stents usually need to be replaced every 3-4 months.

Patients can also undergo operative biliary decompression, either by choledochojejunostomy or cholecystojejunostomy, at the time of an operation for resectability assessment.

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