Pancreatic tumours

Causes and symptoms of pancreatic tumours

HCA UK experts can explain the symptoms of pancreatic tumours and offer advice on the treatments available

About

The pancreas produces digestive juices and hormones. Tumours that form on the pancreas can be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).

Tumours start in different parts of the pancreas. Understanding the type of cell the tumour started in and exactly where in the pancreas, will help your consultant decide the treatment you need.

Need to know

  • Symptoms of pancreatic tumours icon plus

    Symptoms can vary depending on where the tumours are in the pancreas. The symptoms are not precise but may include:

    • pain in the tummy area
    • back pain
    • jaundice (yellowing of the skin)
    • weight loss

    You might experience other symptoms such as:

    • nausea and vomiting
    • diarrhoea or constipation
    • fever
    • shivering
    • indigestion (heartburn)
    • blood clots

    As these symptoms can often be caused by other conditions, it’s a good idea to get checked by your GP or consultant if you notice them.

  • Diagnosis icon plus

    Your GP or consultant will discuss your symptoms with you and examine you. They may also look at your skin to check for signs of jaundice (yellowing) and ask for a urine test and a blood test. If pancreatic tumours are suspected, tests may include:

    • ultrasound scan
    • CT scan
    • MRI scan
    • PET scan
    • PET-CT scan

    Depending on the results of initial tests, your consultant may also recommend:

    • endoscopic ultrasound (EUS)
    • endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)
    • laparoscopy
    • magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP)
    • biopsy

    A small tissue sample is taken from a suspected tumour.

  • Potential treatment options icon plus

    Cancerous tumours in your pancreas can be difficult to treat. In the early stages, the symptoms are not very noticeable, so they are often not diagnosed until the advanced stages. If your tumour is large or has spread to other parts of your body, treatment options may be more complex. Your consultant will discuss the best treatment for you. This will depend on the type and location of your tumour and how advanced it is. Your age and your overall health will also be taken into consideration. Treatment options may include:

    • surgery
    • chemotherapy
    • radiotherapy

    However in the advanced stages, surgery is not always an option.

Types of cancerous pancreatic tumours

Adenocarcinomas

This is the most common type. They start in the cells lining the ducts of the pancreas

Cystic tumours

These are cysts (fluid-filled sacs) in the pancreas. Most pancreatic cysts are benign (non-cancerous) but some are cancerous

Cancer of the acinar cells

Located at the ends of the ducts that produce pancreatic juices. They tend to occur in younger people and are slower growing

Endocrine pancreatic tumours

These are uncommon and start in the endocrine pancreas, where insulin and other hormones are made and released directly into the bloodstream

Pancreatoblastoma

These are very rare tumours that mainly occur in children

Sarcomas of the pancreas

These are extremely rare. They involve the connective tissue that holds together the cells of the pancreas

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This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
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