Please note: This content is an excerpt from the American Cancer Society Cancer Facts & Figures 2013 publication. Please download Cancer Facts & Figures 2013 to see all Tables and Figures noted. Any reproduction or re-use should credit the appropriate Cancer Facts & Figures publication and include a statement of copyright and identify the data source used.

Introduction

Cancer of the pancreas is one of the deadliest cancer types. Over the past decade, pancreatic cancer death rates have been slowly increasing among US men and women, in contrast to the downward trend in rates for most other major cancer sites, such as lung, colorectum, female breast, and prostate. The lack of progress in primary prevention, early diagnosis, and treatment underscores the need for additional efforts in pancreatic cancer research and has motivated us to address this disease in the current edition of Cancer Facts & Figures. Specifically, this special section provides updated information on occurrence, prevention, early detection, diagnosis, and treatment of pancreatic cancer. This information is intended to inform anyone interested in learning more about pancreatic cancer, including policy makers, researchers, clinicians, cancer control advocates, patients, and caregivers.

The pancreas contains two types of glands that each perform very different functions. The exocrine glands produce enzymes that help digest food; the endocrine glands produce important hormones such as insulin, which regulates blood sugar levels. Exocrine and endocrine cells form completely different types of tumors with distinct risk factors, symptoms, diagnostic tests, treatment, and survival rates. Exocrine tumors are the focus of this special section because they are by far the most common type of pancreatic cancer, representing about 95% of cases.