There are approximately 27,000 new cases of carcinoma of the pancreas each year and most afflicted patients will die of the disease. Although smoking is a common denominator, chronic pancreatitis is considered an important precursor lesion in a smaller number of cancers. Pancreatic cancer is primarily a disease of the pancreatic ducts. The molecular events are under intense study, but c-K-ras mutation is involved in approximately 80% of the cases and p53 to a slightly lesser degree (60-80%). Early manifestations are usually occult, but jaundice is a common manifestation in patients with cancers of the pancreatic head. Thin-slice computed tomography, portography, and endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography are currently the most sensitive detection techniques. The developing use of endoscopic ultrasound and laparoscopy appear to enhance detection and are under evaluation. In many patients with advanced disease, endoscopic bypass may eliminate the need for unnecessary surgery, although gastrointestinal bypass is still required in some patients (10-15%). Curative resection is possible in selected patients (perhaps 10-15%), with expectation of extended survival ranging from 6->20% in some series. The survival differences may be related to stage, patient selection, and the expertise of the operative team. Preoperative chemotherapy/radiation is under study and may improve outcome. Clinical trial participation is essential for improvement in treatment outcomes.