Pancreatic Cancer

15 February, 2023

Your pancreas plays a crucial role in digestion. Pancreatic enzymes like lipase, protease and amylase break down your sugars, fats and starches. Not only this, the pancreas also releases the key hormone insulin that allows your body to use sugar for energy. The absence of insulin raises the blood sugar levels in the body. 

Despite its key role, the pancreas is prone to cancer as well. 90% of cancers begin in the cells that make enzymes for digestion. Referred to as pancreatic cancer, it is hard to detect the same at an early stage. This is, so the symptoms of the same do not occur until it has spread to other body organs.

There are two larger categories of pancreatic cancer.

  1. Exocrine Pancreatic Cancer
  2. Neuroendocrine Pancreatic Cancer

Each has different categories that vary in symptoms and prognosis. In this blog, we will discuss the different types of pancreatic cancers. But before, let us understand the symptoms and causes of pancreatic cancer. 

Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer

Changes or mutations in the pancreas cells lead them to multiply, causing pancreatic cancer. Symptoms or effects of pancreatic cancer are not visible initially, but as it progresses, the symptoms appear. The symptoms of pancreatic cancer are given below.

  1. Abdominal pain going to the back.
  2. Weight loss or loss of appetite.
  3. Jaundice.
  4. Dark-coloured urine and light-coloured stools.
  5. Fatigue, blood clots and itchy skin.
  6. Diagnosis of diabetes or existing diabetes that is out of control.

Causes of Pancreatic Cancer

There is no clear cause of pancreatic cancer. But certain risk factors can make you prone to it. These include

  1. Smoking or using any form of tobacco.
  2. Obesity and Type-II diabetes.
  3. Exposure to chemicals almost daily.
  4. Chronic pancreatitis, i.e., having permanent inflammation of the pancreas. 
  5. Hereditary syndromes with gene changes.

It needs to be noticed that people above 45 are more prone to develop pancreatic cancer. But still, adults of any age can be diagnosed with the same and children are rarely diagnosed with it.


Types of Pancreatic Cancer

As discussed above, there are two types of pancreatic cancers which further have several types. These are discussed below.

  • Exocrine Pancreatic Cancer

It develops in the exocrine cells, which are responsible for secreting digestive enzymes. 95% of all pancreatic cancers are made up of exocrine pancreatic cancer. The types are explained below.

  • Adenocarcinoma 

It is the most common type of pancreatic cancer, occurring in the lining of the ducts of the pancreas. Due to the same, it is also referred to as ductal carcinoma. 

The cells creating the enzymes can also lead to their development. In this case, it is also called acinar cell carcinoma.

Both adenocarcinoma and acinar cell carcinoma have common symptoms like weight loss, rashes, abdominal pain, nausea and joint pain. However, in the case of acinar cell carcinoma, jaundice is absent. 

  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma

This is a rare form of pancreas cancer caused by squamous cells in the duct lining. Squamous cells are never present in the pancreas, thus, their existence causes cancer. The prognosis of the same is difficult due to severe complications to treat the same.  No proper pancreatic cancer treatment is devised for this type of cancer, making it difficult to treat and cure. 

  • Adenosquamous Carcinoma

In this, tumours developed in the duct lining of the pancreas are aggressive. The symptoms of it are similar to adenocarcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. This constitutes one to four per cent of exocrine pancreatic cancer.

  • Colloid Carcinoma

A benign cyst called IPMN or intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasm causes colloid carcinoma that causes tumours. The tumours consist of malignant cells that float in the mucin, due to which the chances of it spreading out are less. As compared to other forms, the prognosis of this is much better.  

  • Neuroendocrine Pancreatic Cancer

Endocrine gland is responsible for secreting hormones like insulin and glucagon directly into the bloodstream to manage sugar levels. Neuroendocrine pancreatic cancer is caused in the endocrine gland of the pancreas due to NETs or pancreatic neuroendocrine tumours. This rare form of cancer makes up only five per cent of total pancreatic cancers.


The types are explained below.

  • Gastrinoma

When gastrin-producing cells develop tumours, then gastrinoma is caused. Symptoms include acid reflux, diarrhoea, pain in the stomach or back and stomach ulcers. 

  • Insulinoma

Tumours occurring in the insulin cells causes insulinoma. Symptoms like irritability, blurred vision, fatigue, rapid heartbeat and heartbeat. 

  • Glucagonoma

Glucagonoma is caused when tumours develop in glucagon-producing cells. Symptoms like diarrhoea, mouth sores, blood clots in the lungs and frequent urination are experienced in glucagonoma. 

The diagnosis of pancreatic cancer can be made with PET scans, CT scans, biopsies, blood tests and ultrasound. Once the stage of the cancer is determined, pancreatic cancer treatment can be started by your doctor. With proper care and treatment, it is possible to cure pancreatic cancer.

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