What is pancreatic cancer?
The pancreas is an organ in the abdomen that helps the body digest and use the energy that comes from food.
Pancreatic cancer occurs when abnormal cells in the pancreas grow out of control. It can occur in the head, body or tail of the pancreas.
Pancreatic cancers are divided into two main groups – exocrine and endocrine tumours.
- Exocrine tumours start in the exocrine cells that make enzymes to help digestion. Over ninety five per cent of pancreatic cancers are classified as exocrine tumours and about 90% of these are called pancreatic ductal adenocarcinomas (PDAC).
- Endocrine tumours (also called neuroendocrine tumours) start in the hormone producing cells and account for less than 5% of all pancreatic cancers.
Within these two main groups there are many different types of pancreatic cancer. The different types behave differently, produce different symptoms and may be treated differently. Tumors may be cancerous (malignant) or not cancerous (benign).