In the foreground, a model of the pancreas sits on a doctor's desk. In the background, a grey-haired female doctor speaks with a dark-haired female patient.

Pancreatic cancer

Pancreatic cancer affects almost 600 people in Ireland each year. The most common type of pancreatic cancer is adenocarcinoma.

Pancreatic cancer can be treated with surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

What is pancreatic cancer?

Pancreatic cancer develops when abnormal cells in the pancreas grow out of control, forming a tumour. Almost 600 people are diagnosed with it in Ireland every year.

The most common type of pancreatic cancer is adenocarcinoma. These cancers are found in the head of the pancreas, in the ducts. About 9 in 10 patients will have adenocarcinoma.

Pancreatic cancer may cause very few symptoms in the beginning, but as it grows it can cause symptoms.

What is the pancreas and what does it do?

The pancreas is a gland that is part of your digestive system. It is approximately 6 inches long and lies deep inside your tummy (abdomen), behind your stomach and in front of your spine.

It has 3 main parts: the head, the body and the tail. It is close to several large and important organs and blood vessels.

The pancreas makes digestive juices (enzymes). The digestive juices break down food so that it can be absorbed into the lymph and bloodstreams. The pancreas also makes hormones, including insulin, which control sugar levels in the blood. If the pancreas is unable to make enough insulin, diabetes results.

More information about pancreatic cancer treatment

Treatment for pancreatic cancer includes surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. For more information about treatments for pancreatic cancer, visit our treatment page. For specific treatment information use the links below.

Medical content updated from our Understanding Cancer of the pancreas booklet (2023). Reviewed by Mr Justin Geoghegan, consultant pancreatic surgeon (retired) and former Clinical Lead of the National Surgical Centre for Pancreatic Cancer, Sharon Glynn, Hepatopancreaticobiliary Surgical Oncology CNS and Valerie Greene, Daffodil Centre Nurse
Publications about pancreatic cancer
Downloadable booklets and factsheets
Image with a yellow background and purple type reads: Pancreatic cancer. Small icons of some symptoms appear in both lower corners.
Pancreatic cancer: know what to look for
Know the symptoms of pancreatic cancer, because spotting cancer early is important. An A4 poster to download, share, or print.
Cover of cancer of the pancreas patient booklet
Pancreatic cancer patient booklet
Information for pancreatic cancer patients, including tests, staging, treatment and side-effects, and how to cope.

Looking for support?

Our cancer support section contains information and advice on coping with cancer for diagnosed patients and their loved ones.

For more information

Icon: Phone


1800 200 700

Icon: Email