What is it? What are the complications? And what is the prognosis?

Whipple Procedure Prognosis

Establishing a Whipple procedure prognosis is not easy.

It is affected by different factors such as cancer stage, a patient’s overall health status and several other conditions that affect recovery.

So please remember that the numbers in this article are only averages and vary for each individual.

Whipple Procedure Prognosis: Increased 5 Year Survival Rate

Pancreatic cancer patients have a 5% 5-year survival rate. For patients who undergo a Whipple procedure, this rate increases up to 20%. That means the chances of living to 5 years after the diagnosis is increased from 5% to 20%.

For patients with cancer-free lymph nodes, the 5-year survival rate is at 40%. Survival rate is even better for patients with noncancerous tumors of the pancreas, the Whipple procedure prognosis is a long natural life.

Whipple Procedure Prognosis: Long Term Consequences

In a study to determine the quality of life of Whipple procedure survivors, many patients reported to be able to return to normal functions. However, some patients required alterations in diet, lifestyle or general living conditions.

When the remaining portion of the pancreas is not capable to produce enough enzymes for digestion of food, indigestion can occur, which results in abdominal discomfort or a “bloated” feeling. Breaking down three big meals to five to six small meals a day may lessen the load on the pancreas. In severe cases, medications to replace or supplement pancreatic enzymes are prescribed.

Immediately after the procedure, it is common for patients to lose weight. Around 7% of preoperative body weight is lost. After the adjustments on diet, weight stabilizes rapidly and patients maintain their new weight easily and do well.

Post Whipple Procedure Diet

After surgery, patients experience loss of appetite. For the first few weeks, food will taste bland, or worst have a bad taste. However, to meet the increased demands of the healing body, a balanced diet is necessary. The body requires more calories and protein than normal and at the same time the stomach can’t be overfilled and the pancreas can’t be burdened.

Plan meals into small and strategically scheduled portions for maximized energy and hydration for the day. Avoid gas-producing foods such as broccoli, cabbage and dried beans, at least for the first 2-4 weeks post-surgery. Wait for at least one month before resuming dairy products. Also go easy on “sweets” such as candies and cakes for up to three months after the Whipple procedure to avoid “dumping syndrome”, which manifests as lightheadedness and diarrhea.

The Whipple procedure can increase a patient’s life expectancy and change the quality of life. Adapting to a new body state will always be challenging, but the necessary extra efforts are a reasonable price to pay for a second chance at life. Just like everything else in life, the Whipple procedure prognosis gets better and success is more possible if carried out with hard work and dedication.