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What is pancreatic cancer?

Normal healthy cells grow in a carefully controlled way. Pancreatic cancer develops when cells in the pancreas grow out of control, forming a lump (tumour). This can happen in the head, body or tail of the pancreas.

There are different types of pancreatic cancer.

  • About 95 out of 100 pancreatic cancers (95%) are called exocrine tumours. These start in the cells that make enzymes (exocrine cells). 
  • Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma is the most common type of exocrine tumour. It starts in the cells lining the pancreatic duct. About 80 out of 100 of all pancreatic cancers (80%) are pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma. 
  • Endocrine tumours (also called neuroendocrine tumours or NETs) are a less common type of pancreatic cancer. They start in the cells that make hormones in the pancreas (endocrine cells). Fewer than 5 in 100 (5%) of all pancreatic cancers are neuroendocrine tumours.

Exocrine and neuroendocrine cancers behave differently and are treated differently. Most of our information is about exocrine tumours. The NET Patient Foundation has more information about neuroendocrine tumours.

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