Two main types of tumour develop in the pancreas – exocrine and endocrine – depending on which type of cell becomes cancerous. Exocrine and endocrine tumours have different causes, risk factors, symptoms, diagnostic methods, treatments and outlooks (prognosis).
- Exocrine pancreatic cancer: is the most common type, accounting for more than 90% of pancreatic cancers. Most of these are pancreatic adenocarcinomas, which usually start in the ducts of the pancreas (the small tubes that pancreatic fluid, containing enzymes, passes through).
- Endocrine pancreatic cancers: are also known as pancreatic neuroendocrine tumours or islet cell tumours (the islets are collections of cells that make insulin). They are classified as functional (produce hormones) or nonfunctional (do not produce hormones). Nonfunctional tumours are more likely to be malignant (cancer) than are functional tumours.
American Cancer Society (2015). Pancreatic cancer http://www.cancer.org/cancer/pancreaticcancer/detailedguide/index.
National Comprehensive Cancer Network (2014). NCCN guidelines for patients: pancreatic cancer, version 1.2014 http://www.nccn.org/patients/guidelines/pancreatic/index.html.
National Cancer Institute (2015). Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (islet cell tumors) treatment (PDQ®) http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/isletcell/Patient, patient version.