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A disease in which malignant (cancer) cells are found in the tissues of the pancreas. Also called exocrine cancer.
Pancreatic cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the pancreas.
The pancreas is a gland about 6 inches long that is shaped like a thin pear lying on its side. The wider end of the pancreas is called the head, the middle section is called the body, and the narrow end is called the tail. The pancreas lies behind the stomach and in front of the spine.
Anatomy of the pancreas. The pancreas has three areas: head, body, and tail. It is found in the abdomen near the stomach, intestines, and other organs.
The pancreas has two main jobs in the body:
The digestive juices are produced by exocrine pancreas cells and the hormones are produced by endocrine pancreas cells. About 95% of pancreatic cancers begin in exocrine cells.
This summary provides information on exocrine pancreatic cancer. See the PDQ summary on Pancreatic Neuroendocrine tumours (Islet Cell tumours) Treatment for information on endocrine pancreatic cancer.
Anything that increases your risk of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer; not having risk factors doesn’t mean that you will not get cancer. People who think they may be at risk should discuss this with their doctor. Risk factors for pancreatic cancer include the following:
These and other symptoms may be caused by pancreatic cancer. Other conditions may cause the same symptoms. A doctor should be consulted if any of the following problems occur:
Pancreatic cancer is difficult to detect and diagnose for the following reasons:
Pancreatic cancer is usually diagnosed with tests and procedures that produce pictures of the pancreas and the area around it. The process used to find out if cancer cells have spread within and around the pancreas is called staging. Tests and procedures to detect, diagnose, and stage pancreatic cancer are usually done at the same time. In order to plan treatment, it is important to know the stage of the disease and whether or not the pancreatic cancer can be removed by surgery. The following tests and procedures may be used:
Acinar Cell Carcinoma: Acinar cell carcinomas (ACCs) of the pancreas are rare pancreatic neoplasms accounting for about 1–2% of pancreatic tumours in adults and about 15% in pediatric subjects. They show different clinical symptoms at presentation, different morphological features, different outcomes, and different molecular alterations. This heterogeneous clinicopathological spectrum may give rise to difficulties in the clinical and pathological diagnosis with consequential therapeutic and prognostic implications. The molecular mechanisms involved in the onset and progression of ACCs are still not completely understood, although in
recent years, several attempts have been made to clarify the molecular mechanisms involved in ACC biology.
The prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options depend on the following:
Pancreatic cancer can be controlled only if it is found before it has spread, when it can be removed by surgery. If the cancer has spread, palliative treatment can improve the patient's quality of life by controlling the symptoms and complications of this disease.
For more information on Pancreatic Cancer click here
This link is to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) cancer website in the United States. There may be references to drugs and clinical trials that are not available here in Australia.
Page last updated: 06/05/2020