NCCN Guidelines for Patients
Pancreatic Cancer, Version 1.2014
You’ve learned that you have
pancreatic cancer. It’s common to feel
shocked and confused. Part 1 reviews
some basics about pancreatic cancer
that may help you better understand
this disease. These basics may also
help you start planning for treatment.
What is the pancreas?
The pancreas is a gland found behind the stomach. A
gland is an organ that makes fluids or chemicals the
body needs. The pancreas is about 6 inches long and
has three main parts. The widest part is called the
head. The middle part is called the body. The narrow
end is called the tail.
The pancreas makes hormones, such as insulin. It
also makes proteins, called enzymes, that help to
digest food. Endocrine cells of the pancreas make
hormones. Enzymes are made by exocrine cells in
the small ducts of the pancreas. Ducts are tiny tubes
or vessels that fluids pass through. The small ducts
connect to the main pancreatic duct that extends from
the tail to the head of the pancreas.
The liver is near the pancreas, above the gallbladder.
The liver removes waste from blood and makes
bile—a fluid that helps to digest food. The gallbladder
stores bile from the liver. The common bile duct
carries bile from the liver into the main pancreatic
duct. From the main pancreatic duct, bile and
enzymes empty into the duodenum. The duodenum
is the first part of the small intestine, which absorbs
nutrients from eaten food.
See Figure 1.
8 What is the pancreas?
9 How does pancreatic cancer start?
10 How does pancreatic cancer spread?
11 Websites | Review