Types of pancreatic cancer

There are 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 that help to digest food are made. Ninety-six out of a hundred (96%) pancreatic cancers are exocrine tumours. The most common type of pancreatic cancer, pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), is an exocrine tumour.
  • Neuroendocrine tumours start in the neuroendocrine cells. These cells produce hormones that help control the normal functions of the body. For example, they produce insulin which helps to control the level of sugar in the blood. These tumours are known as pancreatic neuroendocrine tumours or pancreatic NETs. You may also hear them called PNETs or pancNETS.

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 has 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 tumour?
  • How is this type of cancer treated?

Questions about the type of 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


References

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

Acknowledgements

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

  • Anita Balakrishnan, Consultant Hepatopancreatobiliary Surgeon, Cambridge Hepatopancreatobiliary Unit and MRC Cancer Unit, University of Cambridge
  • Fiona Campbell, Consultant Gastrointestinal Pathologist, Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust
  • Keith Roberts, Consultant Gastrointestinal Pathologist, The Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust
  • Nikie Jervis, Specialist Nurse, NET Patient Foundation
  • Stephen Pereira, Professor of Hepatology and Gastroenterology, University College London
  • Pancreatic Cancer UK Information Volunteers
  • Pancreatic Cancer UK Specialist Nurses

Updated: November 2018

Review date: November 2021