Pancreatic Cancer: A Guide for Patients

ESMO Guides for Patients are designed to assist patients, their relatives and caregivers to better understand the nature of different types of cancer and evaluate the best available treatment choices.

What is pancreatic cancer?

Pancreatic cancer is a cancer that forms in certain cells of the pancreas. Most pancreatic cancers (approximately 95%) begin in the exocrine pancreas. Tumours can also form in the endocrine pancreas, but these are uncommon and often benign. This guide provides information on cancers of the exocrine pancreas. There are three main categories of pancreatic cancer: adenocarcinoma is the most common type of pancreatic cancer (accounting for around 80% of cases), cystic tumours, and acinar cell cancer. Pancreatic cancer is classified as localised, locally advanced, and metastatic pancreatic cancer.

Beyond a definition of pancreatic cancer, in this guide for patients you will find answers to questions such as:

  • What are the symptoms of pancreatic cancer?
  • How common is pancreatic cancer?
  • What causes pancreatic cancer?
  • How is pancreatic cancer diagnosed?
  • How will my treatment be decided?
  • What are the treatment options for (resectable, borderline resectable, locally advanced and metastatic) pancreatic cancer?
  • Clinical trials
  • Supplementary interventions
  • What are the possible side effects of the treatments?
  • What happens after my treatment has finished?
  • Support groups

This guide has been prepared to help you, your relatives and caregivers to understand the nature of pancreatic cancer and the treatments that are available. The medical information described in this document is based on ESMO clinical practice guidelines for the management of pancreatic cancer. We recommend that you ask your doctor about the tests and types of treatments available in your country for your type and stage of pancreatic cancer.

Published in 2019