Excellence Next Door
Hepatobiliary and Pancreatic Cancer Program at Inova Fair Oaks gives patients specialized and comprehensive care here in Fairfax County
Since his bout with prostate cancer several years ago, Lemuel Dowdy has been vigilant about reporting any abnormal symptoms to his physician. So at his annual physical last year, 72-year-old Lemuel didn’t hesitate to mention he was having some discomfort in his groin area. Suspecting a hernia, his physician sent him in for a CT scan. While the scan confirmed a hernia diagnosis, it also revealed something far worse — a mass on Lemuel’s pancreas, which turned out to be cancerous.
Knowing that surgery was the next step after chemotherapy, Lemuel considered both Johns Hopkins and the hepatobiliary team of Virginia Surgery Associates (VSA) at Inova Fair Oaks Hospital for the procedure. The decision was clear after meeting VSA pancreas surgeon George Younan, MD, and the hospital’s nursing staff. This innovative program at Inova Fair Oaks, which focuses on conditions such as pancreatic cancer, allowed Lemuel to stay close to home for the procedure. After completing pre-operative chemotherapy, Lemuel underwent a complex pancreatic surgery, called a Whipple procedure, with a complex resection and reconstruction of the portal vein.
“With this program, we offer state-of-the-art treatment that patients can have locally, rather than going to a distant medical center or flying out of state,” says Dr. Younan. “Being able to have that so close to home provides at least similar, if not better, outcomes for patients, and improves how they respond to treatment.”
What is “hepatobiliary”?
The hepatobiliary (or biliary) system encompasses the liver, pancreas, bile ducts and gall bladder. Common disorders and treatments affecting this system include:
- Pancreatic benign and malignant tumors
- Liver benign and malignant tumors
- Gall bladder tumors and difficult gallbladders
- Diseases of the biliary tract
- Surgery for pancreatitis
- Complex abdominal surgeries
Dr. Younan saw Northern Virginia needed hepatobiliary cancer specialists
After doing a hepatobiliary fellowship at the Medical College of Wisconsin, Dr. Younan returned home to Northern Virginia and recognized a shortage of surgeons trained in the specialty. Dr. Younan helped establish the program in collaboration with Timothy Shaver, MD. More than 250 of these highly specialized surgeries have been performed at Inova Fair Oaks since the program’s inception.
“This program is a testament to teamwork,” says Dr. Shaver. “Inova Fair Oaks Hospital has allowed us to assemble a stable, well-trained team to care for these patients. That is why our results have been outstanding.”
For patients like Lemuel, having that expertise close to his home in Reston was a major part of Inova’s appeal. Lemuel has also been impressed with the level of care and support he’s received from diagnosis through recovery. After a successful surgery and chemotherapy, Lemuel currently shows no signs of pancreatic cancer.
“We feel very fortunate,” says Lemuel’s wife, Cynthia. “The entire experience has been phenomenal. We believe Inova Fair Oaks Hospital’s pancreatic cancer program is at the leading edge for these services in the nation, and that makes a huge difference for patients.”
How does Inova’s liver and pancreas cancer treatment compare to other major hospitals?
In the past, patients with cancerous or pre-cancerous tumors on the hepatobiliary organs were required to travel long distances to receive care. But when Dr. Younan came onboard at Inova, he brought a capability to perform highly specialized form of surgery for those living with several types of liver and pancreatic diseases. Dr. Younan was fellowship-trained in hepato-pancreato-biliary surgery at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee – and as of his hiring, was the only surgeon in Northern Virginia with his particular background trained to perform these procedures.
“When people are seeking care, especially with the surgeries that [Dr. Younan] does, it is often a pretty complex inpatient surgery,” says Inova Growth Officer Elise Powers. “It requires a hospital stay, and if you’re going to be in the hospital for a few days, you want to be close to home. We are thrilled to be able to offer this level of care to our community.”