Types of Pancreatic Cancer

There are several types of pancreatic cancer. In general, pancreatic tumors are divided into two broad categories based on the type of cell that the cancer originated in. This information can typically be obtained through diagnostic tests like CT scans, ultrasounds and biopsies.

Cancer can develop in the cells of two types of pancreatic glands: exocrine glands and endocrine glands. The exocrine glands secrete enzymes that help break down food in the intestines during the digestive process. The endocrine glands produce insulin, which helps control the amount of sugar in the blood, as well as other hormones that help the body store and utilize the energy derived from food. 

The majority of pancreatic cancers arise in the exocrine cells. Some of the most common types of exocrine pancreatic cancers include:

  • Adenocarcinoma – The most common form of pancreatic cancer, which originates in the cells of the pancreatic ducts
  • Acinar cell carcinoma – Rare tumors that can sometimes stimulate excessive production of pancreatic lipase, the enzyme secreted to aid in the digestion of fats
  • Intraductal papillary-mucinous neoplasm (IPMN) – A cystic tumor that develops in the main pancreatic duct or a side branch
  • Mucinous cystadenocarcinoma – A rare, cystic tumor filled with mucin (a thick fluid) that occurs in the tail of the pancreas

More rarely, pancreatic tumors can form in the endocrine, or islet, cells. These neuroendocrine tumors can be nonfunctional (non-hormone-producing) or functional, causing the pancreas to overproduce certain hormones. Neuroendocrine tumors are further classified based on the types of hormones they produce, such as gastrin, glucagon, insulin, somatostatin and vasoactive intestinal peptide.

Early detection and appropriate treatment can significantly enhance a pancreatic cancer patient’s prognosis. Moffitt Cancer Center’s Gastrointestinal Oncology Program boasts pancreatic cancer outcomes that consistently exceed national averages and provide patients with an improved quality of life. As a high-volume cancer center, we have extensive experience and expertise in all aspects of cancer care, and we are continually developing new, highly specialized diagnostic services and evidence-based approaches to treatment. Additionally, each patient’s case is reviewed by a multispecialty tumor board to ensure the best possible care influenced by multiple expert opinions. We make our outstanding, comprehensive cancer care available to our patients in a single, convenient location, and no referrals are required.

To learn more about Moffitt and our services and support for various types of pancreatic cancer, call 1-888-MOFFITT or request to schedule an appointment online.