Types of Pancreatic Cancer

The prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options for pancreatic cancer depend on many factors

Some of these are:

  • pancreatic cancer staging (the size of the tumor and whether the cancer has spread outside the pancreas to nearby tissues or lymph nodes or to other places in the body)
  • whether or not the tumor can be removed by surgery (tumors that can be removed surgically are called resectable)
  • the patient's general health

Pancreatic cancer can be controlled for a lifetime, or cured, only if it is found before it has spread to other organs, and if it can be removed in its entirety by surgery. If the cancer has spread, or is inoperable, your doctors will discuss treatments that can improve your quality of life by controlling the symptoms and complications of this disease.

Types of pancreatic tumors

Exocrine Tumors are the most common type of pancreatic cancer. About 95% of cancers of the exocrine pancreas are adenocarcinomas. These cancers usually begin in the ducts of the pancreas, but they sometimes develop from the cells that make the pancreatic enzymes.

Cystic Tumors of the pancreas are increasingly being recognized, often on imaging performed for other reasons. There are various types of cysts that can develop in the pancreas, with some being associated with increased risk for developing pancreatic cancer and others that are not and are considered benign. Our multidisciplinary team at the University of Michigan will provide a comprehensive evaluation for your cystic lesion and determine if surgery, surveillance, or no further intervention is recommended.

Endocrine Tumors of the pancreas are uncommon. As a group, they are known as pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (NETs), or sometimes as islet cell tumors. There are several subtypes of islet cell tumors; one example is an Insulinoma tumor.

It is very important to distinguish between exocrine and endocrine cancers of the pancreas. They have distinct risk factors and causes, have different signs and symptoms, are diagnosed using different tests, are treated in different ways, and have different prognoses.

Request an appointment/referral

To make a first time appointment, please call the Patient Care Center at 865-1125 (Monday-Friday, 8am-5:30pm EST). If you would like to refer a patient, please contact our M-Line service: 800-962-3555. For more information, visit our Appointments web page.

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