About Pancreatic Cancer

Types of Pancreatic Cancer

All pancreatic cancers begin when abnormal cells grow out of control within the organ. There are two types of glands in the pancreas: exocrine and endocrine, both of which have different functions and give rise to different types of tumors. Ninety-five percent of all pancreatic cancers are exocrine in nature because they originate in the exocrine cells, which produce digestive enzymes.


In contrast, fewer than 5% of pancreatic tumors are endocrine; these also are called neuroendocrine, or islet cell, tumors. The islet cells produce essential hormones such as insulin, glucagon and somatostatin, which control the amount of sugar in our bloodstream.


Subtypes of islet cell tumors include: insulinomas, which originate in cells that make insulin; glucagonomas, from cells that make glucagon; gastrinomas, from cells that make gastrin; somatostatinomas, from cells that make somatostatin; VIPomas, from cells that make vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP); and PPomas, which arise from cells that make pancreatic polypeptide


Endocrine tumors may be either malignant or benign and tend to grow more slowly than exocrine tumors. These tumors may be functional (they produce hormones) or nonfunctional (do not produce hormones). The majority of functional endocrine tumors are benign, however 90% of nonfunctional endocrine tumors are cancerous.

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