Skip to main content

Basics of pancreatic cancer.

Pancreatic cancer happens when cells in the pancreas start to grow out of control. The American Cancer Society® estimates that about 55,000 new cases will be diagnosed in 2018. It accounts for about 3 percent of cancers diagnosed in the United States. It affects men and women equally.1

There are two main types of cells in the pancreas where cancer can start:

  • Exocrine cells, which make enzymes that help the body digest food
  • Endocrine cells, which make hormones, like insulin and glycogen, that regulate blood sugar

Most pancreatic cancers, more than 95 percent, start in the exocrine cells. Cancers that start in the endocrine cells are less common, accounting for less than 5 percent of cases.

Common treatments for pancreatic cancer include:

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Ablation or embolization, treatments that stop tumors from growing by blocking the blood vessels that feed them

The treatment that your doctor plans for you will depend on the extent (stage) of the cancer, whether it has spread to other parts of the body, and your overall state of health.

Because most treatments for cancer have side effects, it’s important to take care of yourself both before and during treatment. Things you can do to make treatment easier include:

  • Getting enough rest
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Staying physically active
  • Staying connected with family and friends

If you have any questions about your treatment, or have concerns about side effects, talk to your doctor or call your CVS Specialty CareTeam.

This information is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment. Talk to your doctor or health care provider about your medical condition and prior to starting any new treatment. CVS Specialty assumes no liability whatsoever for the information provided or for any diagnosis or treatment made as a result, nor is it responsible for the reliability of the content.

CVS Specialty does not operate all the websites/organizations listed here, nor is it responsible for the availability or reliability of their content. These listings do not imply or constitute an endorsement, sponsorship, or recommendation by CVS Specialty.

Your privacy is important to us. Our employees are trained regarding the appropriate way to handle your private health information.

This document contains references to brand-name prescription drugs that are trademarks or registered trademarks of pharmaceutical manufacturers not affiliated with CVS Specialty.

1American Cancer Society® Website. Accessed October 3, 2018.