Exocrine Pancreatic Cancer (Adenocarcinoma)

Exocrine pancreatic cancer is the most common type.

Exocrine cells release the digestive enzymes through ducts. These cells make up most of the pancreas.

The pancreatic ducts come together to form the main pancreatic duct. This main duct joins the bile duct of the liver to form the ampulla of Vater, located in the duodenum.

Tumors can interfere with the exocrine function, sending pancreatic juices back into the pancreas. This malfunction can damage the pancreas and disrupt digestion.

Adenocarcinoma tumors make up about 95 percent of exocrine pancreatic cancer. Those tumors usually start in the ducts of the pancreas, though they also can form from the cells that make pancreatic enzymes.

There is no specific cause of exocrine pancreatic cancer, but there are risk factors that can be preventable and non-preventable.

Risk factors for pancreatic cancer include:

  • Family history of pancreatic cancer
  • Inherited genetic syndromes or mutations such as:
    • Hereditary pancreatitis
    • Peutz-Jeghers syndrome
    • Li-Fraumeni syndrome
  • Older age (90 percent of people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer are older than 55 and 70 percent are older than 65)
  • Gender (Men are generally more at risk than women)
  • Chronic pancreatitis
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Obesity

Exocrine pancreatic cancer is usually advanced at the time of diagnosis. Symptoms include:

  • Abdominal bloating
  • Upper abdomen or mid-back pain
  • Blood clots
  • Changes in stool
  • Diabetes
  • Jaundice
  • Loss of appetite, nausea or vomiting
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Depression
  • Fatigue

Treatment depends on the type and stage of your pancreatic cancer. Options include: