Surgery for pancreatic cancer
UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center offers comprehensive, multidisciplinary care for young and adult patients with pancreatic cancer of all stages. Treatment is aimed at preservation of critical functions, prevention of disease recurrence and optimization of quality of life. Your team of cancer specialists will include experts in surgical oncology, gastroenterology, radiation oncology, and medical oncology.
The UC Davis pancreatic cancer program utilizes a full team of professionals and revolutionary techniques to treat patients and relieve them of their symptoms.
Patients are carefully evaluated using advanced imaging methods to characterize their disease and facilitate optimal treatment planning. The surgical approach can be either laparoscopic, using several small incisions, or the traditional open approach. Surgical therapy is directed at removing all tumors when feasible, using approaches from enucleation (just the tumor is excised) to more radical surgery such as pancreaticoduodenectomy (i.e., “Whipple procedure”).
Patients may also benefit from participation in the Pancreatico-Biliary Disease Group, a multidisciplinary team focused on diseases of the pancreas and liver. Members of this group represent diverse clinical specialties including surgical oncology, gastrointestinal surgery, medical oncology, interventional radiology, gastroenterology, radiology and radiation oncology. This group performs three tasks: discussion and treatment planning for complex patient cases; development and implementation of novel treatment protocols; and development and implementation of clinical databases.
Surgical removal of the tumor is the most common treatment for pancreatic cancer. Specific surgical techniques may include:
- Distal pancreatectomy: The body and the tail of the pancreas and usually the spleen are removed.
- Total pancreatectomy: This operation removes the whole pancreas, part of the stomach, part of the small intestine, the common bile duct, gallbladder, spleen and nearby lymph nodes.
- Tumor enucleation: The tumor is dissected from adjacent parenchyma. This approach is reserved for benign tumors.
- Whipple procedure: Also known as a pancreaticoduodenectomy, this procedure removes the head of the pancreas, the gallbladder, part of the stomach, part of the small intestine, and the bile duct. Enough of the pancreas is left to produce digestive juices and insulin.
If the cancer has spread and cannot be removed, the following types of palliative surgery may be done to relieve symptoms:
- Surgical biliary bypass: This bypass is performed if the cancer is blocking the small intestine and bile is building up in the gallbladder. During this operation, the doctor will cut the gallbladder or bile duct and sew it to the small intestine to create a new pathway around the blocked area.
- Endoscopic stent placement: If the tumor is blocking the bile duct, surgery may be done to put in a stent (a thin tube) to drain bile that has built up in the area. The doctor may place the stent through a catheter that drains to the outside of the body, or the stent may go around the blocked area and drain the bile into the small intestine.
- Gastric bypass: If the tumor is blocking the flow of food from the stomach, the stomach may be sewn directly to the small intestine so the patient can continue to eat normally.
Radiation therapy: This treatment uses high-energy X-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing. There are two types of radiation therapy:
- External radiation therapy uses a machine outside the body to send radiation toward the cancer. One type of therapy, called fast neutron radiation therapy, aims neutrons (tiny, invisible particles) at the cancer cells to kill them. Using higher-energy radiation than X-ray radiation therapy allows the same amount of radiation to be given in fewer treatments.
- Internal radiation therapy uses a radioactive substance sealed in needles, seeds, wires or catheters, which are placed directly into or near the cancer.
Chemotherapy: This treatment uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. When chemotherapy is taken by mouth or injected into a vein or muscle, the drugs enter the bloodstream and can reach cancer cells throughout the body (systemic chemotherapy). When chemotherapy is placed directly into the spinal column, an organ, or a body cavity such as the abdomen, the drugs mainly affect cancer cells in those areas (regional chemotherapy).
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Oncologists Specializing in Pancreatic Cancer
Michael Campbell, M.D.
Assistant Professor of Surgery
John P. McGahan, M.D.
Professor of Radiology
Chief of Abdominal Imaging and Ultrasound
Joseph W. Leung, M.D.
Professor of Medicine
Chief of Gastroenterology
Shiro Urayama, M.D.
Associate Professor of Medicine, Gastroenterology
May Cho, M.D.
Assistant Professor of Medicine, Hematology and Oncology
Edward Kim, M.D., Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine, Hematology and Oncology
Kit W. Tam, M.D.
Assistant Professor of Medicine, Hematology and Oncology
Michael Tanaka, Jr., M.D.
Professor of Medicine, Hematology and Oncology
Arta Monjazeb, M.D., Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Radiation Oncology