NCCN Guidelines for Patients® | Pancreatic Cancer - page 12

10
NCCN Guidelines for Patients
®
Pancreatic Cancer, Version 1.2014
1
About pancreatic cancer
How does pancreatic cancer spread?
Genes are instructions in cells for making new
cells and controlling how cells behave. Changes in
genes turn normal cells into cancer cells. Within the
pancreas, exocrine or endocrine cells can become
cancer cells. About 90 out of 100 pancreatic cancers
start in exocrine cells that line the ducts of the
pancreas. This type of pancreatic cancer is called
ductal adenocarcinoma and is the focus of this patient
book.
How does pancreatic cancer
spread?
Unlike normal cells, cancer cells can spread and
form tumors in other parts of the body. The spread of
cancer makes it dangerous. Cancer cells can invade
normal tissue and cause organs to stop working.
Cancer that has spread is called a metastasis.
Cancer that has spread to a nearby body part is
called a local metastasis. Cancer that has spread
to a body part far from the primary tumor is called a
distant metastasis.
Cancer can spread to distant sites through blood.
Two major blood vessels lie behind the pancreas. The
superior mesenteric artery supplies the intestines with
blood. The superior mesenteric vein returns blood to
the heart.
Cancer can also spread through lymph. Lymph is
a clear fluid that gives cells water and food. It also
has white blood cells that fight germs. Lymph nodes
filter lymph and remove the germs. Lymph travels
throughout the body in vessels like blood does.
Lymph vessels and nodes are found everywhere in
the body.
See Figure 3.
Figure 3.
Lymph nodes and vessels
Illustration Copyright © 2014 Nucleus Medical Media,
All rights reserved.
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