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Surgical expertise at Upstate allows patients with pancreatic and liver cancers to stay in Syracuse

kittur in labA liver cancer diagnosis used to come with little hope. “That‘s changing,” says Dilip Kittur MD, chief of Hepatobiliary and Pancreatic Surgery at Upstate.

He began offering surgery to treat people with cancer of the liver, bile ducts, gallbladder and pancreas in 2005, because so many patients had to leave Central New York to get care. Kittur‘s background in transplant surgery, immunology and endocrinology allowed him to easily expand into treatment of these cancers. And this fall a second surgeon, Krit Kitisin MD has joined the Upstate team.

Cancers of these internal organs are often found at late stages, because symptoms don‘t become apparent until the disease has progressed. Most liver cancers are “secondary,” meaning the cancer has spread to the liver from elsewhere in the body, often the colon.

Treatment may involve removing the cancer through surgery, or shrinking the tumor first and then operating.

Depending on the size and location of the tumor, Kittur may recommend blocking the tumor‘s blood supply with beads of chemotherapy in a process called chemoembolization. He also may use radiofrequency ablation to burn the tumor.

About 60 to 65 percent of liver tumors are in the right lobe. In those cases, removing the entire lobe will allow the organ to regenerate, or grow back healthy.

Kittur says if the tumor is successfully removed, patients have up to a 50 percent survival rate five years after surgery. He recently spoke about the care he provides on Health Link on Air radio, which airs at 9 a.m. Sundays on WSYR.

Increased Risks

You increase your risk of developing liver cancer if you:

  • have hepatitis B or C

  • abuse alcohol

  • develop diabetes

  • are obese

  • drink well water that contains arsenic

You increase your risk of developing pancreatic cancer if you:

  • have cirrhosis of the liver

  • smoke or use smokeless tobacco

  • develop diabetes

  • are obese

  • spend lots of time around certain pesticides, dyes and chemicals

Source: American Cancer Society

Hear Dr. Kittur's interview on Health Link on Air.

Learn about liver cancer from the American Cancer Society.

Learn about pancreatic cancer from the American Cancer Society.