PURPOSE: Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma is known to be very dismal. Although some publications reported marked improved survival data after surgical resection recently, many clinicians have pessimistic views on the treatment of pancreatic cancer. So we set the objectives of this study to evaluate the clinical results of pancreatoduodenectomy in pancreatic cancer and investigate what constitutes long term survival after pancreatoduodenectomy for pancreatic cancer. METHODS: We analyzed 286 patients with pancreatic head ductal adenocarcinoma hospitalized in Seoul National University Hospital between 1985 and 1995, retrospectively. We excluded the patients with cystic pancreatic tumor and solid pseudo-papillary tumor in this study. Of them, 67 patients received pancreatoduodenectomy. We re-reviewed the histologic specimens of resected cases and tried to find clinico- pathological features in long-term survivors after pancreatoduodenectomy. RESULTS: Median survival of total patients with pancreatic head cancer was 8 months. Significant survival difference could be found between resected cases (15 months) and non-resected cases (6 months) (p<0.001). Of the patients who underwent pancreatoduodenectomy, there were nine patients who survived more than three years. In the patients who underwent pancreatoduodenectomy, depth of invasion, lymph node metastasis, UICC stage, CEA level, adjuvant chemotherapy were the prognostic factors. After histologic re-review in the long-term survivors, there were only 4 typical ductal adenocarcinoma, and 2 cases of variant ductal adenocarcinoma (mucinous noncystic adenocarcinoma, undifferentiated adenocarcinoma), the others were re-diagnosed with bile duct cancer, papillary mucinous carcinoma, and pancreatoblastoma. When we excluded the patients with non ductal adenocarcinoma according to the pathologic review, the median survival of the patients with pancreatoduodenectomy (n=64) decreased (14 months). CONCLUSION: Only the 2% of all the pancreatic cancer and 11% of the resected cases could be considered as 'cure'. In the long-term survivors, there were various types of pathology associated with good prognosis, so typical ductal adenocarcinoma of pancreas would have poorer prognosis than expected. Careful pathologic review must be preceded in the analyzing the survival data.