Surgical resection provides the only potential cure for pancreatic cancer, yet resection in patients 70 years of age and older remains controversial because of presumed increased morbidity and mortality. Our aim was to determine the operative results in patients 70 years of age or older undergoing potentially curative radical pancreatic resection for pancreatic cancer from 1982 through 1987. Of 206 consecutive patients explored for potential resection, 42 patients (mean age, 75 years) had potentially curative procedures, including radical pancreaticoduodenectomy in 23 patients, total pancreatectomy in 8 patients, and distal pancreatectomy in 11 patients. Ductal adenocarcinoma was the most frequently encountered neoplasm (69%), but cystadenocarcinoma and islet cell carcinoma accounted for 12% and 7%, respectively. The overall operative mortality rate was 9%, while surgical morbidity was 28%, and medical morbidity was 12%. Overall median survival was 19 months, and 5-year survival was 4%. Despite the low overall incidence of resectability and postoperative cure rate for pancreatic carcinoma, exploration for potential curative resection should not necessarily be withheld for healthy, selected patients who are older than 70 years. Morbidity and mortality rates, although slightly greater than for patients who are older than 70 years, are acceptable.
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