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About Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer is rare, making up about three percent of all cancer diagnoses. At the Abramson Cancer Center, you have a team of world-class gastrointestinal (GI) cancer experts and support professionals at your side. Our surgeons, cancer specialists and researchers work closely with you to customize your treatment based on the latest science and support you throughout your care. We make sure you don’t face pancreatic cancer alone.

Pancreatic Cancer Symptoms

Pancreatic cancer almost never causes noticeable symptoms until a tumor is large or cancer spreads beyond the pancreas. Even then, people often experience subtle symptoms that may be easily dismissed.

For these reasons, doctors often detect pancreatic cancers in later stages, when the disease poses a greater threat. Reach out to your doctor if you notice one or more of these pancreatic cancer symptoms, especially if symptoms linger or get worse over weeks or longer:

  • Feeling overly tired all the time (fatigue)
  • Yellowing of your skin or eyes (jaundice)
  • General disinterest in eating
  • Nausea
  • Pain in the upper belly and middle back
  • Losing weight without trying
  • A sudden, unexpected diabetes diagnosis

Types of Pancreatic Cancer

Doctors classify pancreatic cancer into two main types:

  • Exocrine cancers arise from exocrine gland cells inside the pancreas. These cells aid the digestion process. Exocrine cancers (mostly adenocarcinoma) make up most pancreatic cancers.
  • Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) develop from islet cells within the pancreas. These islet cells make hormones to keep blood sugar levels steady. NETs make up less than 5 percent of all pancreatic cancers. Penn Medicine has a full team dedicated to specialized care for this rare tumor.

Pancreatic Cancer Causes

Medical experts don’t yet understand exactly what causes most pancreatic cancers. Researchers believe unhealthy lifestyle habits (such as smoking), older age and other risk factors may increase the likelihood of developing pancreatic cancer.

An estimated 1 in 20 cases of pancreatic cancer are hereditary. Hereditary cancers occur due to a gene mutation that families pass down in their DNA. Learn more about pancreatic cancer risk and prevention.

Why Choose Abramson Cancer Center for Pancreatic Cancer Care?

We are a top referral center for some of most challenging pancreatic cancer cases along the East Coast. Our multidisciplinary team delivers the most advanced, personalized treatment with support and compassion. They’ll never leave your side.

Patients consistently praise our:

  • Rare expertise: Penn specialists have an expert understanding of how to care for all types of pancreatic cysts and malignant pancreatic tumors. Our team includes national experts in rare neuroendocrine tumors, which look similar to pancreatic cancer but require alternative treatment approaches.
  • Unsurpassed surgical skills: Penn’s surgeons perform a high volume of pancreatic resection surgeries, and our outcomes are some of the best in the nation. Our extensive surgical experience enables us to help more patients. We successfully remove even hard-to-treat pancreatic tumors, often when other centers can’t.
  • Care close to home: Navigating cancer treatment takes time and energy. We make it easier. Whether you need cancer screening, diagnostic or treatment services, the Penn network has you covered. Our many Abramson Cancer Center locations in Philadelphia and surrounding areas help you get the care you need, closer to home.
  • Genetic testing and expert risk assessment: If pancreatic cancer runs in your family, you or other family members may be at increased risk. Our certified genetic counselors are experts in hereditary pancreatic cancer. They work with you to get right genetic testing and personalized screening plans, then help you understand your risk and how to manage it. Learn more about Penn’s Gastrointestinal Cancer Genetics Program.
  • Research-backed options: At the Penn Pancreatic Research Center, our scientists, surgeons and other specialists never stop searching for ways to improve pancreatic cancer diagnosis and treatment. The team leads the nation in advancing screening methods to detect pancreatic tumors earlier than ever before. Their research leads to more options for patients with both early and advanced disease.

Request an Appointment

Our pancreatic cancer nurse navigator can guide you to the right pancreatic cancer expert for your needs. Call 215-615-0534 or request an appointment online.