Sarah Cannon - November 10, 2015

The pancreas is an organ located behind the stomach and in front of the spine, and contains two types of cells: exocrine (which produces enzymes released into the small intestine to help with digestion) and endocrine (which produces hormones that help control sugar levels in the blood).

The majority of cases of pancreatic cancer begin in exocrine cells, and generally do not have any symptoms until the disease has progressed. Once diagnosed, the treatment options are determined based on the stage of the cancer.

Learn more about the common treatment options for each type of pancreatic cancer and its stage.

Treatment Options for Exocrine Pancreatic Cancer

Stage I and Stage II treatment options may include the following:

  • Surgery (including whipple surgery) to either remove all the cancer (curative surgery) or relieve symptoms or prevent complications (palliative surgery). Palliative surgery is used when the cancer is too widespread to be completely removed
  • Surgery followed by chemotherapy
  • Surgery followed by chemoradiation

Stage III treatment options may include:

Stage IV treatment options may include :

Treatment Options for Endocrine Pancreatic Cancer

Neuroendocrine Tumors (NETs) are tumors that form in the hormone-making cells (islet cells) of the pancreas.

There are six types of standard treatment for patients with pancreatic Neuroendocrine Tumors (NETs):

  • Surgery: removal of the tumor, with other organs possibly treated surgically as well
  • Chemotherapy: using one or a combination of drugs to stop the cancer cells from growing
  • Hormone therapy: removing or blocking hormones to stop cancer cells from growing
  • Hepatic arterial occlusion or chemoembolization: using drugs, small particles, or other agents to block or reduce the flow of blood to the liver through the hepatic artery
  • Targeted therapy: using drugs or other substances to identify and attack specific cancer cells without harming normal cells
  • Supportive care: therapies to lessen the problems caused by the disease or its treatment

For more information, visit the pancreatic cancer education pages of our website .


American Cancer Society

National Cancer Institute