Home Body Map Pancreas

Pancreatic cancer

Around 10,000 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the UK each year, people aged 75 and over are most at risk of developing pancreatic cancer. There are three main types of pancreatic cancer:

  • Exocrine – the most common of all pancreatic cancers, they start in cells that produce pancreatic digestive juices
  • Endocrine – endocrine tumours start in the endocrine pancreas and are uncommon
  • Other (rare cancers) - pancreatoblastoma, sarcomas of the pancreas and lymphoma are rare cancers to develop in the pancreas

Certain risk factors can cause pancreatic cancers. These include lifestyle habits such as smoking, being overweight, drinking large amounts of alcohol, and a diet that is high in processed meats. Risk factors that can’t necessarily be controlled are family history, age and medical conditions.

Rutherford Treatment Options

  • Proton Beam Therapy Available
  • Radiotherapy UnAvailable
  • Chemotherapy Available
  • Immunotherapy Available

Types of pancreas cancer

Exocrine cancer
Start in the exocrine cells, where enzymes that help to digest food are made. Ninety-six out of a hundred (96%) pancreatic cancers are exocrine tumours. The most common type of pancreatic cancer, pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), is an exocrine tumour. 

Endocrine cancer
Endocrine tumours start in the endocrine pancreas and are uncommon. The endocrine pancreas is where insulin and other hormones are made and released directly into the bloodstream. They are also referred to as pancreatic neuroendocrine tumours (PNETS) or islet cell tumours. Most of these tumours are non-cancerous (benign).

Other (rare cancers)
Pancreatoblastoma, sarcoma and lymphoma are all rare forms of cancer that occur in the pancreas. These types of cancer cells will be diagnosed and treated differently. You can read more about sarcoma and lymphoma by using our treatment finder


Symptoms caused by pancreatic cancer will vary depending on its type and where in the pancreas it has occurred. Some people may have symptoms, whereas others may not experience any. Early diagnosis will make treating pancreatic cancer easier, so if you have any of the following symptoms, it is important to see your GP.

Here are some common symptoms that may be experienced:

  • A change in bowel habits
  • Being newly diagnosed with diabetes
  • Developing a blood clot in the leg (deep vein thrombosis or DVT) or the lungs (pulmonary embolus)
  • Feeling bloated after eating
  • Feeling sick or nauseous
  • Feeling very tired
  • Indigestion
  • Jaundice
  • Pain or discomfort
  • Reduced appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss

If you’d like to speak to us about any of the treatments we offer
please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Call us on 0800 210 0402 or

Pancreatic cancer diagnosis

If your GP thinks you’re experiencing symptoms as a result of pancreatic cancer, they will arrange for you to have a blood test and may send you to a specialist for further diagnostics scans and tests. The earlier a diagnosis is made, the better the outcome of treatment will be.

Several tests and examinations can help diagnose pancreatic cancer. Some may be carried out with your GP, and then you may be referred to a hospital or specialist for further scans or tests.

Ways pancreatic cancer can be diagnosed:

  • Blood tests carried out by a GP or at hospital
  • CT Scan
  • Laparoscopy
  • Laparotomy
  • MRCP (magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography)
  • MRI scan
  • Pancreatic biopsy
  • Pancreatic ultrasound and Endoscopic ultrasound
MRI Diagnosis

Treating pancreatic cancer with proton beam therapy

Treatment for pancreatic cancer will often involve different treatment options, such as surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy. The earlier it is diagnosed, the better the options will be for treatment. Endocrine pancreatic tumours are treated differently to exocrine tumours and usually have a better treatment outcome than the other types of pancreatic cancers.

A consultant oncologist at the Rutherford will be able to discuss with you if your case of pancreatic cancer will benefit from proton beam therapy.

The benefits of using proton beam therapy treatment for pancreatic cancer

It’s difficult to treat the pancreas with conventional radiotherapy, without compromising surrounding areas of the body. Proton beam therapy can be a good option for treating your pancreatic cancer, as it will deliver radiation to the cancerous cells while minimising damage to sensitive tissues or organs surrounding the pancreas. Proton beam therapy treatment will aim to shrink a tumour and kill the cancer cells and help to reduce side effects.

Sensitive areas near the pancreas may include:

  • Kidneys
  • Stomach
  • Spinal cord

An overview of how proton beam therapy works

Proton beam therapy is highly accurate in targeting a treatment area. It can be used to treat hard-to-reach tumours, while lowering radiation exposure to surrounding healthy tissue and vital organs.

Watch the video

Other treatment options for pancreatic cancer

There are other treatment options that can be used to treat pancreatic cancer, either before, after or alongside proton beam therapy. Please see other treatment options available at the Rutherford Cancer Centres below:





Further information & support

Being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and deciding on the best treatment can be daunting, for full details on pancreatic cancer treatment options or to discuss a diagnosis, please contact our enquiries team. Our enquiries team will endeavour to help you assess your treatment options and advise which consultants could be best placed on planning your treatment pathway.

Macmillan Cancer Support offers a wide range of information and support, as well as help with your practical, emotional, and financial needs. All telephone helplines are free and confidential, and interpreting services are also available.

Freephone: 0808 808 00 00

(Monday to Friday, 9.00am – 8.00pm)

Website: www.macmillan.org.uk

Get in Touch

If you'd like to speak to us about any of the treatments we offer please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Call us on 0800 210 0402 or

Our Trusted Healthcare Partners