What is cancer?

Cancer is a disease of the body’s cells.  The human body is made up of many different types of cells and therefore cancer is not a single disease with a single cause or treatment.  There are more than 200 different types of cancer, each with their own diagnostic procedures and treatments.

Normal cells in the body divide in a uniformed and controlled way.  When cells begin to grow out of control they divide and grow into a lump also known as a tumour.  Tumours are either benign or malignant.    Tests such as blood tests, biopsies and diagnostic investigations can all be used to determine the type of tumour. In a benign tumour, the cells do not spread to other parts of the body and so are not cancerous.  In a malignant tumour, the cancer cells have the ability to spread beyond the original area of the body.

What is cancer of the pancreas?

Cancer of the pancreas is a malignant tumour that forms in part of the pancreas. The pancreas is a large gland which lies behind the stomach in the back of the abdomen. It is fairly long, shaped like a leaf, and is often described as having a head, body and tail.

The most common type of pancreatic cancer arises from the cells that line the pancreas, called ducts. These ducts carry the digestive fluids from the gland into the intestine. This type is called a ductal adenocarcinoma. There are other types of pancreatic cancer, and your consultant will explain to you which type you have and give you details of possible treatment options.