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What are the different types of pancreatic cancer?

The most common types of pancreatic cancers are exocrine tumors called ductal adenocarcinomas, which are thought to form in the pancreatic ducts. About two thirds of all pancreatic cancers form in the head of the pancreas. The other third form in the body and tail.  These tumors are malignant, meaning they can invade nearby tissues and organs.

Tumors can also form in the endocrine cells of the pancreas. These types of rare tumors are called islet cell tumors or pancreatic endocrine neoplasms, and most often they are benign. Those that are malignant are called islet cell cancers or malignant pancreatic endocrine neoplasms. These tumors start in small clumps of cells within the pancreas called the "Islets of Langerhans" and are normally responsible for making hormones like insulin.  It is important to distinguish between these tumors because each has different signs and symptoms, are diagnosed using different tests, have different treatments, and have different prognoses.

image: Modified from Henry Greys - Grey's Anatomy

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