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What are the different types of pancreatic disease?

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Quick Answer

Cancer, hereditary pancreatitis, acute pancreatitis and chronic pancreatitis cover most of the conditions affecting the pancreas, according to the National Pancreas Foundation. Doctors divide pancreatic cancer into exocrine and endocrine cancers, notes the American Cancer Society.

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Full Answer

Exocrine tumors cause the most common type of pancreatic cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. Pancreatic adenocarcinoma, which starts in the gland cells, is responsible for 95 percent of exocrine tumors. Solid pseudopapillary neoplasms are a rare type of slow-growing tumor that mostly affects young women. Other rare types of exocrine tumors include undifferentiated carcinomas with giant cells, adenosquamous carcinomas, signet ring cell carcinomas, squamous cell carcinoma and undifferentiated carcinomas.

Endocrine tumors, which doctors may call pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors, are not all cancerous, explains the American Cancer Society. They also usually have a better prognosis than exocrine tumors. However, functioning tumors, such as glucagonomas, somatostatinomas, VIPomas and PPomas, are usually cancerous tumors. Only half of functioning gastrinomas are cancerous, while most functioning insulinomas are benign.

Nonfunctioning tumors, which do not produce hormones, are usually cancerous and mostly asymptomatic, according to the American Cancer Society. For this reason, they can grow very large before doctors detect them. Carcinoid tumors are a rare type of pancreatic endocrine tumor. These tumors are more likely to develop in other areas of the digestive system.

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