What is Pancreatic Cancer?

At Penn Medicine, patients with pancreatic cancer receive their care from a multidisciplinary team of nationally recognized experts in the diagnosis, treatment and research of gastrointestinal cancer.

Pancreatic cancer is cancer that develops within the pancreas, the gland about six inches long that is responsible for making hormones, including the enzymes responsible for the digestion of food and control of blood sugar. It is also called exocrine cancer.

Pancreatic cancer develops when cells within the pancreas begin to grow out of control. It may spread, or metastasize, to nearby lymph nodes and organs such as the liver and lungs.

The pancreas has three sections:

  • Head: Part of the pancreas adjacent to the small bowel and liver ducts
  • Body: Middle of the pancreas
  • Tail: End of the pancreas near the spleen

About 90 percent or more of pancreatic cancer develops in the head of the pancreas.

Penn Medicine's multidisciplinary approach to cancer diagnosis and treatment provides better outcomes and gives patients access to the most advanced treatment, surgical techniques and clinical trials.

Because navigating a new cancer diagnosis and treatment options can be difficult, you may want to connect with a cancer specialist at Penn Medicine who can help you simplify entry into Penn and make an appointment with the right physician.

To connect with a cancer nurse at Penn Medicine, call 800-789-PENN (7366).