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Pancreatic cancer happens when abnormal cells grow and form tumors in the pancreas. There are two types of pancreatic tumors: exocrine, which are in the cells that make digestive enzymes, and endocrine tumors, which are in the cells that make insulin. Most people with pancreatic cancer have exocrine tumors that grow faster than endocrine tumors.
Pancreatic Cancer: What You Need to Know
Pancreatic cancer is best managed by a group of specialists that includes gastroenterologists, oncologists, radiologists and surgeons. Our physicians and other support staff work together as a team, providing expert care.
Our team offers specialized services to diagnose and treat pancreatic cancer, including endoscopic ultrasound, ERCP (endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography) and endoscopic placement of stents. Learn more about diagnosis for pancreatic cancer.
Experienced, Trusted Expertise
The University of Vermont Cancer Center's Gastroenterology and Hepatology Outpatient Clinic is managed by six board certified subspecialists, including two with certification in endoscopic ultrasound. We perform more than 9,000 various diagnostic and therapeutic endoscopic procedures every year.
What is Pancreatic Cancer?
Your pancreas is an organ in your abdomen that makes enzymes that help you digest food and insulin, a hormone that helps control the way your body processes sugar (glucose). Pancreatic cancer happens when cells in your pancreas develop genetic mutations. These mutations make cells grow uncontrollably and continue living after normal cells would die. These cells can gather to form a tumor.
Most pancreatic cancer starts in the cells that line the ducts of the pancreas. This type of cancer is called pancreatic exocrine cancer or pancreatic adenocarcinoma. Rarely, cancer can form in the hormone-producing cells of the pancreas. This type of cancer is called pancreatic endocrine cancer or islet cell cancer.
Pancreatic cancer symptoms often don't appear until the disease is advanced. They may include:
- Upper abdominal pain that may stretch to your back
- Your skin and the whites of your eyes turn yellow (jaundice)
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Blood clots
The exact cause of pancreatic cancer is unknown, but several factors can increase your risk of developing it, including:
- Race: African-Americans are more likely to have pancreatic cancer
- Being overweight or obese
- Chronic pancreatitis
- Family history of genetic syndromes that can increase cancer risk, including BRCA2 gene mutation, Lynch syndrome, and Familial atypical mole-malignant melanoma (FAMMM)
- Personal or family history of pancreatic cancer
- Cigarette smoking: UVM Medical Center offers a quit smoking program
Diagnosis and Treatment: Pancreatic Cancer
UVM Cancer Center physicians are highly trained in performing procedures to diagnose and treat pancreatic cancer such as endoscopic ultrasound, ERCP (endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography) and endoscopic placement of stents.
Learn more about diagnosis and treatment for pancreatic cancer.