Pancreatic cancer can be described in terms of the place where it develops and the type of cells from which it originates.

It can occur in any part of the pancreas, though around 80% of cases begin in the head of the pancreas.

There are several types of pancreatic cancer, the most common being ductal adenocarcinoma, which starts from cells in the lining of the ducts of the pancreas. More than 90% of pancreatic cancers are ductal adenocarcinomas.

Other, less common types of pancreatic cancer include:

  • Cystic tumors: These are fluid-filled sacs in the pancreas, some of which are cancerous.
  • Cancer of the acinar cells, which begin in the cells that make pancreatic juices.
  • Neuroendocrine tumors: These start in the cells of the endocrine system, where insulin and other hormones are produced.
  • Lymphoma: This is a cancer of the lymphatic tissue of the pancreas.

The tests and treatments for neuroendocrine tumors and lymphoma may be different from those described below.