Ampullary cancer care at Mayo Clinic

Mayo Clinic doctors are experienced in diagnosing and treating rare cancers, such as ampullary cancer. Each year, more than 100 people with ampullary cancer receive care at Mayo Clinic.

Diagnosis at Mayo Clinic

Tests and procedures used to diagnose ampullary cancer include:

  • Passing a thin, flexible scope down your throat. Endoscopy is a procedure to examine your digestive system with a long, thin tube (endoscope) equipped with a tiny camera. The endoscope is passed down your throat, through your stomach and into your small intestine to view the ampulla of Vater.

    Special surgical tools can be passed through the endoscope to collect a sample of suspicious tissue.

    Endoscopy can also be used to create images. For instance, endoscopic ultrasound may help capture images of ampullary cancer.

    Doctors also may inject a dye into your bile duct using endoscopy in a procedure called endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography. The dye shows up on X-rays and can show blockages in your bile duct or pancreatic duct.

  • Imaging tests. Imaging tests may help your doctor understand more about your cancer and determine whether it has spread beyond the ampulla of Vater. Imaging tests may include endoscopic ultrasound, endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography, magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography and computerized tomography.
  • Testing cancer cells in the laboratory. A sample of cancer cells removed during endoscopy or surgery can be analyzed in the lab to look for characteristics that might guide treatment and prognosis.

Treatment at Mayo Clinic

Ampullary cancer treatment options may include:

  • Surgery to remove the pancreas and small intestine. The Whipple procedure (pancreatoduodenectomy) involves removing the head of your pancreas, as well as a portion of your small intestine (duodenum), your gallbladder and part of your bile duct.

    The Whipple procedure can be done using a large incision in your abdomen, or as a minimally invasive surgery, which uses several small incisions.

  • Endoscopic surgery. For very small ampullary cancers and precancerous tumors, it may be possible to remove the cancer with tools passed through an endoscope. This may be an option in certain situations.
  • Combined chemotherapy and radiation. Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. Radiation therapy uses beams of energy, such as X-rays and protons, to kill cancer cells. Used together, these treatments may be more effective for ampullary cancers.
  • Chemotherapy alone. In people with advanced ampullary cancer, chemotherapy may be used alone.

Expertise and rankings

Mayo Clinic doctors are widely respected for their experience diagnosing and treating rare conditions, including ampullary cancers. Each year, more than 100 people with ampullary cancer receive care at Mayo Clinic.

Your Mayo Clinic care team

At Mayo Clinic, you'll receive coordinated care from a team of doctors and health care professionals. Doctors involved in your care may include gastroenterologists, oncologists, radiation oncologists, surgeons, pathologists and radiologists. Mayo Clinic doctors work together to provide you with a personalized treatment plan that takes into account your goals and preferences.

Advanced diagnosis and treatment

Mayo Clinic doctors have access to the latest technology, including narrow band imaging, to help diagnose and assess ampullary cancers.

Your team of doctors will work with you to review all of your treatment options and choose the treatment that best suits your needs and goals. The range of treatments offered to people with ampullary cancer includes chemotherapy, radiation and several surgical procedures, such as the Whipple procedure, minimally invasive surgery and endoscopic surgery.

Nationally recognized expertise

Mayo Clinic Cancer Center meets strict standards for a National Cancer Institute comprehensive cancer center, which recognizes scientific excellence and a multidisciplinary approach to cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

Locations, travel and lodging

Mayo Clinic has major campuses in Phoenix and Scottsdale, Arizona; Jacksonville, Florida; and Rochester, Minnesota. The Mayo Clinic Health System has dozens of locations in several states.

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Costs and insurance

Mayo Clinic works with hundreds of insurance companies and is an in-network provider for millions of people.

In most cases, Mayo Clinic doesn't require a physician referral. Some insurers require referrals, or may have additional requirements for certain medical care. All appointments are prioritized on the basis of medical need.

Learn more about appointments at Mayo Clinic.

Please contact your insurance company to verify medical coverage and to obtain any needed authorization prior to your visit. Often, your insurer's customer service number is printed on the back of your insurance card.