Pancreatic Exocrine Tumors

More than 95% of pancreatic cancers are classified as exocrine tumors.  These tumors start in the exocrine cells of the pancreas.  The following table describes the most common pancreatic exocrine tumors.

TYPE DESCRIPTION
Adenocarcinoma Adenocarcinoma is the most common type of pancreatic cancer.  It accounts for about 90% of all pancreatic cancers.  It begins in the cells lining the pancreatic duct.
Acinar Cell Carcinoma Acinar cell carcinoma is a very rare form of pancreatic cancer. Some tumors may cause excessive production of pancreatic lipase, the enzyme secreted to digest fats.  Pancreatic lipase levels can be measured in the blood.
Intraductal Papillary-Mucinous Neoplasm (IPMN) An IPMN is a cystic tumor that grows from the main pancreatic duct or from side branches of the duct.  The tumor may appear as a finger-like (papillary) projection into the duct.  An IPMN may be benign at the time of diagnosis.  However, it has a risk of progressing to malignancy.  This risk is high when the IPMN originates in the main pancreatic duct.  An IPMN may therefore be a precursor for adenocarcinoma.
Mucinous Cystadenocarcinoma Mucinous cystadenocarcinoma is a rare, malignant, cystic tumor.  The cyst is filled with a thick fluid called mucin.  It is similar to an IPMN but occurs in just one area of the pancreas, more commonly in the tail of the pancreas. These tumors are mostly seen in women.

There are other rare types of exocrine pancreatic tumors not discussed in this table.  For information about other types of exocrine pancreatic tumors, contact our Patient and Liaison Services (PALS) program at pals@pancan.org.

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