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April 1998

Metastases to the Pancreas and Their Surgical Extirpation

Author Affiliations

From the Departments of Surgery, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Mass.

Arch Surg. 1998;133(4):413-418. doi:10.1001/archsurg.133.4.413

Background  The pancreas is an unusual but occasionally favored site for metastases, notably from carcinomas of the kidney and lung. The pancreas may be the only identified locus of spread, and therefore may provide an opportunity for significant palliation or even cure using pancreatectomy.

Objective  To report the treatment and outcome of patients presenting with metastases to the pancreas.

Design  Five-year survey.

Setting  Tertiary referral center.

Patients  Ten patients with apparently isolated metastases to the pancreas were identified from January 1, 1991, to December 31, 1995. All patients were followed up until death or to September 1997.

Results  The patients had been treated previously for carcinoma of the lung (n=4), renal cell carcinoma (n=2), sarcoma (n=2), breast carcinoma (n=1), and endometrial carcinoma (n=1). The interval between primary treatment and presentation of the metastases averaged 70 months (14-24 months for lung cancer, 10 and 22 years for renal cell carcinoma, 4 and 6 years for sarcoma, 8 years for breast cancer, and 36 months for endometrial carcinoma). Metastases were initially misdiagnosed as primary pancreatic cancers in 7 patients. In 4 patients (those with renal cell cancer and sarcomas), the tumor was completely resected using total pancreatectomy (n=3) or Whipple resection (n=1). Survival after diagnosis averaged 22 months. Two of the 4 patients undergoing pancreatic resection remain alive and well 20 and 25 months after pancreatectomy.

Conclusions  The pancreas may be the presenting and perhaps sole locus for metastasis, typically years after treatment for certain extrapancreatic malignant neoplasms. Recognition and surgical treatment can provide worthwhile palliation and long-term survival.