The pancreas is part of the body's endocrine system and lies across and behind the stomach. It produces digestive enzymes and hormones and insulin to regulate blood sugar. Removal of all or part of the pancreas may be necessary to treat pancreatic cancer, eliminate cysts or other benign tumors, or to treat pancreatitis.
With a distal pancreatectomy, only a part, typically the end, of the pancreas is removed and the pancreas continues to function in a normal fashion.
A total pancreatectomy removes the entire pancreas and parts or all of digestive organs associated with it. Patients having total pancreatectomies have to take digestive enzyme supplements and insulin for the rest of their lives.
A Whipple operation is a procedure in which several parts of the gastrointestinal system, including part of the pancreas, are removed for the treatment of cancer.