Types of Pancreatic Cancer
All types of pancreatic cancer begin
when abnormal cells grow out of control within the pancreas. There are
two types of cells in the pancreas, the exocrine cells and endocrine cells.
These cells also have different functions.
More than 95% of pancreatic cancers are classified as exocrine tumors.
These tumors start in the exocrine cells that make pancreatic enzymes
that help in digestion. Within this category, the vast majority of tumors
are adenocarcinomas. The following table describes the different types
of pancreatic exocrine tumors. Click here to learn
about types of exocrine tumors in the pancreas.
Accounting for less than 5%
of all pancreatic tumors are neuroendocrine tumors, also called endocrine
or islet cell tumors. Islet cells are the endocrine cells in the pancreas
that produce and secrete the hormones insulin, glucagon and somatostatin
into the bloodstream. Insulin and glucagon are the two main pancreatic
hormones. Insulin lowers blood sugar levels while glucagon raises blood
sugar levels. Together, these two main hormones work to maintain the proper
level of sugar in the blood. Somatostatin regulates the levels of a variety
of other hormones in the blood.
Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors may be benign or malignant and they tend
to grow slower than exocrine tumors. Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors
are either functional (produce hormones) or nonfunctional (produce no
hormones). Most functional neuroendocrine tumors are benign. However,
90% of nonfunctional neuroendocrine tumors are cancerous. Click
here to learn about types of endocrine tumors in the pancreas.
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