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Norris Cotton Cancer Center
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Pancreas

What is pancreatic cancer? 

The pancreas contains exocrine and endocrine cells. Exocrine cells found in exocrine glands and ducts are responsible for producing enzymes that help with digestion. Endocrine cells are in clusters and produce and release important hormones like insulin and glucagon, which help control blood sugar levels. Pancreatic cancer starts when either type of these cells start to grow out of control.

More information about pancreatic cancer (American Cancer Society) 

What pancreatic cancer is not:

Pancreatic cancer begins in cells in the pancreas, but is not “one size fits all.” The many subtypes of exocrine and endocrine tumors have distinct symptoms, tests, treatments and outlooks. This type of cancer should not be confused with other gastrointestinal cancers such as stomach, GIST, liver or colorectal cancer.

Types of pancreatic cancer:

  • Exocrine pancreatic cancers are the most common type of pancreas cancer. 
  • Endocrine tumors are more rare and can be benign (not cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Both tumors can look alike under a microscope, so it isn’t always clear if they are really cancer until it spreads outside the pancreas.

Diagnosis

It’s possible that you could have one or more of the following tests (but not all of these will apply to your condition):

  • Biopsy
  • CT scan
  • Physical exam
  • Referral to GI team

Treatment

Depending on your unique set of conditions, your treatment could include one or more of the following treatments (but not all of these will apply to your condition):

  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation
  • Surgery

Your full team of care providers will work closely together to review your diagnostic tests, identify the best course of treatment particular to you, and help you understand your diagnosis and what to expect with any treatment you have.  

Photo: Gregory Tsongalis, PhD, left, and Kerrington Smith, MD, right, two of NCCC’s leading pancreatic cancer research experts.

What's Happening with Pancreatic Cancer Research at NCCC?

NCCC's leading pancreatic cancer research experts highlight groundbreaking research projects and clinical trials underway for this challenging cancer, and offer thoughts on what the future holds.
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