As major surgical center, we have pancreatic cancer survival rates that are among the best in the nation. Our innovative approaches help more patients get life-saving surgery, even for large tumors.
You may be understandably worried if you’ve learned you need surgery for pancreatic cancer. But you can be reassured knowing we have the most experienced team in the region, performing over 100 successful operations each year.
Highlights of our surgery program include:
In many cases, pancreatic cancer isn’t found until the cancer has spread. However, surgery is only an option when surgeons can completely remove the tumor and when tumors haven’t spread to distant organs.
Our integrated practice unit speeds up the treatment process, shortening the time it takes to get your surgery. Pancreatic cancer surgeries offered at UCLA include:
Before one of these procedures, your surgeon may perform a staging laparoscopy. This minimally invasive operation involves placing a camera through several small holes in the abdomen to assess the extent of the tumor. If the cancer has spread to other areas, doctors may not perform the full operation to remove the tumor.
The Whipple procedure is the most common operation to remove pancreatic cancer. It is a complex procedure, but research shows surgery risks are lower at high-volume hospitals like UCLA.
Patients at facilities performing more than 20 Whipple procedures annually experience fewer complications like blood loss and post-surgical infection. Our surgeons perform roughly 100 Whipple procedures each year, with consistently lower rates of blood loss than other major medical centers.
The Whipple procedure involves:
Patients are typically hospitalized for 7 to 10 days.
UCLA surgeons use minimally invasive laparoscopic techniques for certain operations. These techniques allow surgeons to operate using several small holes instead of a large incision.
For patients, laparoscopic surgery means:
Minimally invasive pancreatic cancer surgeries at UCLA include:
We offer minimally invasive distal pancreatectomy for patients with all forms of pancreas diseases, including NETs (neuroendocrine tumors) and pancreatic adenocarcinoma. Surgeons remove the body and tail of the pancreas, and often the spleen (splenectomy) because its blood supply is closely connected with the pancreas. Another reason surgeons remove the spleen is because it contains many of the lymph nodes that drain this region of the pancreas.
Because the spleen protects your body from infection, you may need certain vaccines before and/or after surgery. Patients must also stay in the hospital to recover for 5 to 7 days.
Total pancreatectomy is less common for pancreatic cancer. It is typically only used when tumors have spread throughout the pancreas.
During the operation, surgeons remove the entire pancreas, the spleen and the gallbladder. Removing the pancreas means your body can no longer produce pancreatic enzymes (digestive juices) or insulin. Life after this surgery usually involves taking supplemental enzymes and insulin injections.
Occasionally, patients with neuroendocrine tumors isolated to the liver undergo transplantation. Our liver transplant team is the most experienced in the western U.S.
Learn more about UCLA’s liver transplant program.
Patients are typically only eligible for surgery when tumors are located mainly in the pancreas. For many patients, however, pancreatic cancer isn’t found until after the tumor has spread.
Our unique approach helps more patients receive surgery, using longer chemotherapy treatment schedules before surgery to shrink tumors. This downstaging program allows surgeons to remove pancreatic tumors, and in some cases reconstruct veins, with help from top UCLA vascular surgeons.
Our innovative program provides hope for patients with borderline removable or locally advanced (unremovable) tumors. Our surgeons have successfully removed tumors in over 80 percent of cases when surgery is recommended, extending patients’ lives and even curing a number of patients.
For more information or to make an appointment with our team of specialists, please call us at (310) 206-6889.