An  estimated 46,420 cases of pancreatic cancer were diagnosed in the United States in 2014. Pancreatic cancer is a particularly deadly disease: only 6.7 percent of patients with this type of cancer will be alive five years after their diagnosis. The lack of an effective screening method for early detection and treatment is an important factor in the poor survival rate. Only 9 percent of patients have localized disease at the time of diagnosis; in more than half of the patients (53 percent) the cancer has metastasized (spread) to distant sites.  Five-year survival rates are longer when the disease is caught before it has spread.
What is Pancreatic Cancer?
Located behind the stomach, the pancreas is a long, narrow organ that primarily contains exocrine glands and ducts that produce and release digestive enzymes.  The organ is also an endocrine gland that produces hormones, such as insulin, which are released into the blood.
Both exocrine and endocrine glands can give rise to pancreatic cancers, but almost all pancreatic cancers involve exocrine tumors. An adenocarcinoma is a cancer that starts in gland cells; about 95 percent of cancers of the exocrine pancreas are adenocarcinomas.    Tumors of the endocrine pancreas are rare (only 3 percent to 5 percent of all pancreatic tumors), but they have a substantially better prognosis than exocrine tumors.
How Can Houston Methodist Help?
At Houston Methodist, we are dedicated to providing leading-edge diagnosis and treatment options that deliver the best possible results.
In 2012, a global team led by scientists from the Houston Methodist Hospital Research Institute identified more than 500 genes that may cause or contribute to the development of pancreatic cancer. Research such as this may identify genes that are useful in screening and early diagnosis of pancreatic cancers, which opens the door to potentially life-saving early treatment. Our continued commitment to research enables us to improve present and future cancer care.

Learn more about our current cancer-related clinical trials.


Our physicians specialize in managing pancreatic cancer at the following convenient Houston Methodist Cancer Center locations.