The Two Categories of Pancreatic Cancer

A graduate of the National University of Singapore, Dr. Eric Gan Keng Seng completed his postdoctoral medical training in upper gastrointestinal surgery and hepatobiliary surgery. Now practicing at Mount Elizabeth Novena Medical Centre, Dr. Eric Gan maintains a special interest in cancer surgery and performs procedures for several types of cancer, including pancreatic.

Pancreatic cancer affects each patient differently, but most types of pancreatic cancer can be divided into two categories: exocrine and endocrine.

Exocrine tumors account for roughly 95 percent of all pancreatic cancers. Types that belong to this category affect the exocrine gland. Adenocarcinomas, which form in the ducts of the pancreas, are the most common type of exocrine pancreatic cancer. However, cystic tumors, a condition that causes cysts to form in the pancreas, and cancer of the acinar cells, cells at the ends of the pancreatic ducts, are also types of exocrine pancreatic cancers. Treatment for exocrine tumors is largely based on their stage of growth.

Meanwhile, endocrine pancreatic tumors form in the endocrine pancreas. This area creates and releases insulin and other hormones into the bloodstream. Endocrine tumors are fairly uncommon and divided into tumors that produce hormones and those that do not. Hormone-producing tumors are often benign and can cause peculiar symptoms that vary depending on the hormone being produced. Non-functioning tumors are typically malignant and frequently do not produce any symptoms.

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