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Cancer care: Pancreatic cancer

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Abbott Northwestern Hospital is in Minneapolis MinnesotaVirginia Piper Cancer Institute® – Abbott Northwestern Hospital

Our Pancreatic Cancer Program brings together surgeons, oncologists, gastroenterologists, pathologists and radiologists. They treat pancreatic cancer with the latest surgical techniques and advanced therapies.

Because of our dedication to research, all of our patients with pancreatic cancer are considered for clinical trials. Nearly 100 percent of our surgical patients enroll in clinical trials.

For more about the Pancreatic Cancer Program or to make an appointment, call 612-863-4633.

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Pancreatic cancer: What is it?

The pancreas is a gland that extends across the abdomen and contains three types of cells.

Pancreatic cancer occurs when these cells grow out of control.

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Pancreatic cancer

Pancreatic carcinoma is cancer of the pancreas.

Learn more about pancreatic cancer in our health encyclopedia.

  • Exocrine cells create digestive juices that contain enzymes to help break down foods for the body's use.
  • Duct cells line the tube system that routes the digestive juices to the intestines. This is the most common starting point for pancreatic cancer (adenocarcinoma).
  • Endocrine cells are arranged in clusters called islets. These islets make hormones like insulin that help balance the amount of sugar in the blood.

Both types of cells can form tumors in the pancreas.

  • Adenocarcinomas are the most common type of pancreatic cancer.
  • Endocrine tumors are known as islet cell tumors that are classified by several sub-types. Most are benign; they are not cancerous. But a few types become pancreatic cancer.
  • Acinar cell cancers (from the exocrine cells) are uncommon.

Source: American Cancer Society, All About Pancreatic Cancer; Virginia Piper Cancer Institute
Reviewed by: Timothy Sielaff, MD, PhD, FACS, medical director, Virginia Piper Cancer Institute
First Published: 09/17/2009
Last Reviewed: 08/26/2009