Types of pancreatic cancer

Find out more about the different types of pancreatic cancer.

The different types of pancreatic cancer are divided into two main groups, based on the different types of cells found in the pancreas.

  • Exocrine tumours start in the exocrine cells, where enzymes are made. These enzymes help to break down (digest) food. 95 out of 100 (95%) pancreatic cancers are exocrine tumours. The most common type of pancreatic cancer, pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), is an exocrine tumour.
  • Neuroendocrine cancers start in the neuroendocrine cells. These cells make hormones that help to control how our bodies work. For example, in the pancreas they make insulin and glucagon that help to control blood sugar levels. You may hear neuroendocrine cancers called pancreatic neuroendocrine tumours, pancreatic NETs, PancNETs or pancreatic neuroendocrine neoplasms (pNENs).

Diagram showing the anatomy of the pancreasDiagram showing the anatomy of the pancreas

Most of our information is about pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma. Neuroendocrine Cancer UK have more information about neuroendocrine tumours.

The pancreas can also be affected by pancreatic cysts, or by other cancers that grow in structures close to it or inside it.

Questions to ask your doctor or nurse

  • What type of cancer do I have in my pancreas?
  • Is it an exocrine or neuroendocrine cancer?
  • Where in my pancreas is the cancer?
  • How is this type of cancer treated?

Read our fact sheet on the types of pancreatic cancer

To read more about the types of pancreatic cancer, download our fact sheet, Types of pancreatic cancer.

Download our fact sheet
p.1 of the fact sheet

Questions about pancreatic cancer?

If you have any questions about your cancer, speak to your medical team.

You can also speak to our specialist nurses on our Support Line.

Speak to our nurses
Specialist nurse Dianne

References and acknowledgements


If you would like the references to the sources used to write this information, email us at publications@pancreaticcancer.org.uk


We would like to thank the following people who reviewed our information on types of pancreatic cancer.

  • Dr Adam Duckworth, Consultant Histopathologist, Cambridge University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
  • Chloé McMurray, Senior HPB Dietitian – Nutrition & Dietetics, North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust
  • Dr Fraser Duthie, Consultant Pathologist, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde
  • Melanie Dadkhah-Taeidy, Macmillan HPB & Rare Cancer CNS, Tameside & Glossop Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust
  • Nikie Jervis (RGN) Patient Engagement, Education & Policy Lead, Neuroendocrine Cancer UK
  • Prof Stephen Pereira, Institute for Liver & Digestive Health, University College London
  • Pancreatic Cancer UK Information Volunteers
  • Pancreatic Cancer UK Specialist Nurses

Published July 2022

To be reviewed July 2025