Cancer of the papilla or the ampulla of Vater appears, from a clinical point of view, to be an intraduodenal or ampullary cancer. An adenoma-dysplasia-carcinoma sequence has been established. In 20%-40% of the patients with an adenoma of the papilla, a cancerous lesion in the adenoma is additionally observed. Oncological resection using a Kausch-Whipple technique or a pylorus-preserving partial pancreatico-duodenectomy (PPPD) offers a 5-year survival probability of between 45% and 65%. The hospital mortality after oncological resection at experienced centers is below 5%. The most frequent treatment-related complication is pancreatic fistula, which occurs in around 20% of the patients. In about 10% of the patients with a pT1 cancer and in 25% to 67% with pT2 and pT3 cancer, lymph node involvement has been observed. Lymph nodes in front of and behind the head of the pancreas are the primary targets for cancer cell disseminations. In more than one-third of the patients, lymph nodes in the interaortocaval space and the lymph nodes around the superior mesenteric artery and the nodes in the pancreatic segment of the hepatoduodenal ligament are involved. Therefore, tissue dissection, including, selectively, the N2 lymph nodes, is an essential component of radical surgery for cancer of the papilla. A standard Kausch-Whipple resection or PPPD without a selective extended lymph node dissection, including the interaortocaval and superior mesenteric artery nodes, results in about 30% of the patients having an R2-resection, i.e., with cancer left behind. The long-term survival is determined by the tumor biological factors: (1) absence of lymph node involvement and (2) absence of infiltration into the pancreas. The surgeon's contribution to the cure of cancer of the papilla is to perform an R0-resection with low hospital mortality and low postoperative morbidity. Patients without lymph node involvement, and with absence of infiltration into the pancreas, no lymph vessel invasion, and tumor-negative margins have major benefits from oncological resection in regard to curability of the cancer.
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