Endorsed by the European Oncology Nursing Society

Pancreatic cancer

Pancreatic cancer image

What is pancreatic cancer?

  • Pancreatic cancer originates in the pancreas1
  • The pancreas is an organ located behind the stomach; it is involved in digestion and secretes substances and hormones such as insulin2,3

Types of pancreatic cancer

  • Pancreatic cancer can be divided into 2 main types: exocrine tumours and endocrine tumours2
  • Exocrine tumours develop in the exocrine glands of the pancreas; these glands make a “juice” containing enzymes that play a role in digestion2
  • Endocrine tumours develop in clusters, or “islets”, of endocrine cells in the pancreas; these islets make important hormones such as insulin and glucagon, which play a role in digestion of glucose2
  • Exocrine tumours are by far the most common type2

Who gets pancreatic cancer?

  • Pancreatic cancer mostly affects people aged 50–80 years3
  • It is more common in smokers than in non-smokers3
  • People with diabetes, chronic pancreatitis, stomach ulcers, and stomach infections caused by the Heliobacter pylori bacteria have an increased chance of developing pancreatic cancer3
  • It is the 12th most common cancer worldwide4
  • 338,000 new cases were diagnosed worldwide in 20124

Screening, detection, and diagnosis

  • People at high risk of developing pancreatic cancer can be screened using genetic testing or endoscopic ultrasound5
  • Pancreatic cancer is diagnosed on using:6
    • Urine and blood tests
    • Imaging tests such as ultrasound, CT, MRI, and PET
    • Endoluminal ultrasonography
    • Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography
    • Laparoscopy
    • Biopsy

Patient guidelines

A patient guideline is a document containing information for patients and their families about their disease and the treatment options available to them

Click here to see the European patient guideline on your condition7

Local support groups

Contacting a support group may help you during diagnosis and treatment and afterwards


Click here for information on the incidence of pancreatic cancer in Europe8



  1. American Cancer Society. Pancreatic cancer. Accessed November 2015.
  2. American Cancer Society. What is pancreatic cancer. Accessed November 2015.
  3. NHS Choices. Cancer of the pancreas. Accessed November 2015.
  4. World Cancer Research Fund International. Pancreatic cancer statistics. Accessed November 2015.
  5. American Cancer Society. Can pancreatic cancer be found early?. Accessed November 2015.
  6. NHS Choices. Diagnosing pancreatic cancer. Accessed November 2015.
  7. European Society for Medical Oncology. Pancreatic cancer: a guide for patients. Accessed November 2015.
  8. World Health Organization. Pancreatic cancer. Accessed November 2015.