Pancreatic Cancer

Our accomplished team of pancreatic cancer experts delivers outcomes that are among the best in the nation.

Find your care

Let our experts create a personalized treatment plan for you. For more information, connect with a cancer care specialist at 888-662-8252.

Pancreas illustration

Why choose UCLA Health for pancreatic cancer care?

At UCLA Health’s Agi Hirshberg Center for Pancreatic Diseases, we’re at the forefront of innovative treatments for pancreatic cancer. We’re proud to offer:

Better outcomes : At UCLA Health, our pancreatic cancer survival rates are among the best in the nation. Our experts are leaders in pancreatic cancer treatments.

Surgical expertise: Our experienced team of surgical oncologists performs more pancreatic surgeries than any other hospital in Southern California. We put our unmatched expertise to work for our patients every day.

Team-based care: Our doctors gather weekly to review your treatment plan. We combine our experience and expertise to ensure you receive the care that’s best for you.

Convenient locations: You can receive pancreatic cancer services at our community cancer care centers located across the greater Los Angeles region. UCLA Health is proud to offer the highest quality care, close to home.

Our services

From diagnosis to follow-up care, our compassionate care team provides comprehensive services including:

Diagnosis

Depending on your symptoms, your oncologist may order one or more of the following tests:

Lab tests: Doctors may order a blood panel called CA 19-9, a urine analysis or a stool test to help detect cancer.

Advanced imaging: Tests that include X-rays and imaging such as CT scan, MRI and positron emission tomography (PET) scans.

Percutaneous transhepatic cholangiography (PTC): An X-ray of the bile ducts using an intravenous contrast dye.

DOTA-TATE Gallium-68 PET scan: A PET scan in which a radioactive drug is injected, making tumors more visible. DOTA-TATE Gallium-68 PET scans are offered at only a handful of sites in the country. With this state-of-the-art machine, UCLA Health physicians can find smaller tumors in earlier stages.

Endoscopic ultrasound: A diagnostic procedure using a thin tube, called an endoscope, with an ultrasound tip to take images of the pancreas, bile duct and digestive tract.

Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP): A minimally invasive procedure that uses an X-ray and endoscope to capture images of the pancreas.

Pancreatic biopsy: A procedure in which a surgeon takes a sample of pancreatic tissue to look for cancer.

Cancer genetics

Our cancer genetics experts evaluate inherited factors that may increase your risk of developing pancreatic cancer. Knowing about a specific genetic risk allows us to tailor a treatment plan that is optimal for you. Learn more about the cancer genetics program at UCLA Health. 

Cancer support

When you or a loved one has cancer, it’s important to find a supportive community to lean on. Turn to the Simms/Mann-UCLA Center for Integrative Oncology for resources to help you cope with the burdens of cancer. We offer counseling, spiritual care and workshops in mind-body healing, stress management and more.

Pancreatic cancers we treat

Pancreatic cancer begins in the pancreas, an abdominal organ that is part of the digestive system. There are two main types of pancreatic cancer:

Exocrine pancreatic tumor: Starts within the exocrine cells, which are located in the ducts and exocrine glands of the pancreas. Exocrine cells help break down carbohydrates, fats, proteins and acids. Types of exocrine tumors include:

Adenocarcinoma: The most common form of pancreatic cancer. It accounts for 95% of cases. Adenocarcinoma usually starts in the exocrine ducts.

Colloid carcinoma: An uncommon form of pancreatic cancer. Colloid carcinoma begins as a benign cyst called an intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasm (IPMN).

Squamous cell carcinoma: A rare pancreatic cancer made up of squamous cells that originate in the pancreatic ducts. Most cases are discovered after they have spread.

Neuroendocrine pancreatic tumors: Originate in the pancreas’ endocrine gland cells, which release hormones into the bloodstream to regulate blood sugar. These tumors can be benign or cancerous. They include:

Gastrinoma: A malignant tumor located in the pancreas or duodenum, which is part of the small intestine.

Glucagonoma: A pancreatic tumor that causes blood sugar levels to rise. A common symptom of this tumor is a skin rash that appears when the body makes too much of the hormone glucagon. Around 80% of these tumors are malignant.  

Insulinoma: A rare, genetic pancreatic tumor that secretes insulin, the hormone that lowers blood glucose levels. Almost all insulinoma tumors are benign (not cancerous).

VIPoma: A form of pancreatic tumor that secretes vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP), which causes severe diarrhea and potassium loss. These tumors are malignant about 50 to 75 percent of the time.

Treatments we offer

Your treatment will depend on your diagnosis and progression of the cancer. We offer a range of treatments so that your care team can create an individualized plan that meets your needs. Treatments include:

Nonsurgical pancreatic cancer treatments

Some types of pancreatic cancer may be treated without surgery. Treatments include:

Chemotherapy: Powerful drugs used to kill pancreatic cancer cells. Chemotherapy may also be used before surgery to shrink tumors or after surgery to lower the risk of cancer returning.

Radiation therapy: Focused beams of high-energy radiation that target and kill pancreatic cancer cells.

Immunotherapy: A biologic treatment that activates the immune system to attack cancer cells.

Clinical trials: Research studies that test new treatments for safety and effectiveness.

Pancreatic cancer surgery

Our highly trained surgeons are skilled in minimally invasive, robot-assisted and traditional surgeries. We offer:

Whipple surgery: A complex procedure to remove pancreatic tumors and take biopsy samples of nearby lymph nodes. Surgeons may also remove surrounding organs, such as the bile duct, gallbladder and part of the small intestine. Removing these organs increases the chances that all cancer cells are removed. Whipple surgery is also called a pancreatoduodenectomy.

Distal pancreatectomy: Surgery to remove tumors in the left side, or tail, of the pancreas. Surgeons usually remove the spleen as well.

Total pancreatectomy: Surgery to remove the entire pancreas. Surgeons may also remove the gallbladder, spleen and part of the stomach and small intestine.

Our expert team

At UCLA Health’s Center for Pancreatic Diseases, you’ll receive excellent care from a top team of pancreatic cancer specialists. Our experts perform more pancreatic surgeries than any other hospital in the region, and our outcomes are some of the best in the nation.

Contact us

Call 310-206-6889 to request an appointment with a pancreatic cancer specialist at UCLA Health.