Pancreas Conditions

Exocrine Cancer

Adenocarcinomas are the most common type of exocrine tumor, accounting for about 95% of cases. Most adenocarcinomas begin in the hollow passageways (ducts) that connect the pancreas to the duodenum (upper part of the small intestine). These are called ductal adenocarcinomas. Much less common are adenocarcinomas that originate in the cells that produce pancreatic enzymes. These are called acinar cell carcinomas.

Treatment and prognosis of exocrine tumors depend more on the stage of the cancer than on the exact type. If the tumor is detected before it spreads, the prognosis is generally better. These tumors are often removed surgically using either the Whipple procedure, distal pancreatectomy or, rarely, total pancreatectomy.

Unfortunately, cancers of the exocrine pancreas do not typically produce symptoms until they have spread to other parts of the body, and they cannot be easily detected by a doctor during a physical exam. A key exception is that of obstructive jaundice (yellow eyes and skin), in which the tumor grows in the region of the pancreatic head and blocks the flow of bile from the liver into the duodenum. Obstructive jaundice is serious and should be addressed immediately. Once cancer of the exocrine pancreas has spread, it is typically not curable, but may still be treated with some combination of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, depending on the situation.

Pancreas Treatments