Pancreatic cancer types

This page was reviewed under our medical and editorial policy by

Maurie Markman, MD, President, Medicine & Science

This page was updated on May 10, 2022.

Every pancreatic cancer patient is different. That's why it's important to have a care team with cancer experts that have extensive experience in properly staging and diagnosing the disease, and developing a treatment plan that's tailored to your specific type of pancreatic cancer.

Pancreatic cancer is classified into two main types: those that form in the exocrine gland and those that form in the endocrine gland. About 95 percent of pancreatic cancers begin in the exocrine (enzyme-producing) cells of the pancreas.

Pancreatic cancer exocrine tumors

Most of the pancreas is made of exocrine cells, and most tumors affecting these cells are called adenocarcinomas. Found in many other cancers, including breast, prostate and lung, adenocarcinomas most often form in glands that secrete fluids. Pancreatic adenocarcinomas are the most common type of pancreatic cancer and most often form in the exocrine cells found in pancreas ducts. Treatment for adenocarcinomas of the pancreas is based on the stage and size of the tumor.

Rare types of pancreatic cancer include:

  • Acinar cell carcinoma
  • Intraductal papillary-mucinous neoplasm
  • Mucinous cystic neoplasm
  • Adenosquamous carcinoma
  • Pancreatoblastoma

Pancreatic cancer endocrine tumors

These tumors are less common and are most often benign. Though rare, cancer stemming from a pancreatic endocrine tumor (PET) affects the hormone-producing cells. These tumors are also called islet cell tumors or neuroendocrine tumors.

Next topic: What are the stages of pancreatic cancer?

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