Pancreatic cancer

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Cancerous tumours of the pancreas

A cancerous tumour of the pancreas can grow into and destroy nearby tissue. It can also spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body. Cancerous tumours are also called malignant tumours. About 95% of all cancerous pancreatic tumours start in exocrine cells. The exocrine cells make and release juices that help with digestion.

Ductal adenocarcinomas are the most common cancerous tumours of the pancreas. They make up about 95% of all pancreatic cancers. They occur 1.5 to 2 times more often in men than in women, and they usually develop between the ages of 60 and 80 years.

Ductal adenocarcinoma starts in the cells lining the ducts of the pancreas. Many ductal adenocarcinomas start in the head of the pancreas. They can also start in the body or tail.

Rare pancreatic tumours

The following cancerous tumours of the pancreas are rare.

Adenosquamous carcinomas (also called adenocanthoma) occur in men 3 times more often than in women. They can develop at any age. Adenosquamous carcinomas are treated with surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumours (pNETs) are more common in men than in women. They generally occur in people over 60 years of age. These tumours can occur in any part of the pancreas. They are treated with a combination of chemotherapy drugs followed by surgery or radiation therapy. Find out more about pancreatic neuroendocrine tumours.

Cystadenocarcinomas are slightly more common in women than in men. They can occur at any age, and the average age at diagnosis is 48 years. These tumours mostly affect people who do not have a history of pancreatitis (inflammation or infection of the pancreas). Cystadenocarcinomas are treated with surgery. Doctors haven’t determined the best type of surgery to use for these tumours because they are so rare.

Acinar cell carcinomas occur more often in men than in women. They can occur at any age. These tumours can cause lumps on the skin of the legs and then on the arms, chest, abdomen and scalp. Acinar cell carcinomas can also cause arthritis, which causes pain when you move your joints, but with little swelling. They are treated with surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

Pleomorphic adenocarcinomas (also called giant cell or sarcomatoid carcinoma) are slightly more common in men than in women. They usually develop in people in their 60s, and the average age at diagnosis is 67 years. In rare cases, these tumours can cause jaundice. Pleomorphic adenocarcinomas are treated with surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

Microadenocarcinomas tend to be large and usually develop in the head or tail of the pancreas. The average age at diagnosis is 40 years. Microadenocarcinomas are treated with surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

Pancreatoblastomas are seen most often in children. These tumours are removed with surgery.

Oncocytic carcinomas are very rare. Because they are so rare, experts aren’t sure of the average age at diagnosis or if these tumours occur more often in men or women.

Lymphoma is a type of cancer that starts in lymphocytes, which are a type of white blood cell. Lymphoma that starts in the pancreas (called primary lymphoma of the pancreas) is very rare. It appears to occur more often in men than in women, and the average age at diagnosis is 65 years. Treatment is based on the stage and the specific type of tumour.

Sarcoma is a type of cancer that starts in connective tissues. Sarcoma that starts in the pancreas (called primary sarcoma of the pancreas) is very rare. Most sarcomas of the pancreas are metastases from sarcomas that started in the abdomen.

jaundice

A condition in which the skin and whites of the eyes become yellow and urine is dark yellow.

Jaundice may be caused by high levels of bilirubin (a substance formed when red blood cells break down) in the blood. It can also result from liver problems or a blocked bile duct.

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