Prognosis of Pancreatic Cancer

By  , Expert Content
Aug 17, 2012

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Pancreatic cancer is one of the most lethal cancers and often the prognosis is poor. Prognosis of cancer gives the patient an idea about their probable chance of recovery or recurrence (return of the cancer) of the disease. Understanding the prognosis is important for a patient with cancer as it helps them to understand the possible outcome and what the future holds. This helps the patient and their loved ones to handle the disease and live with it better.

Prognosis of pancreatic cancer

Prognosis of pancreatic cancer is poor as most cases are diagnosed in quite an advanced stage when surgical removal isn't possible. Complete surgical resection of the cancer is the only curative treatment for pancreatic cancer. The cancer typically grows and spreads rapidly and is diagnosed in the early stages in very few cases. In most cases, the cancer is diagnosed when it is at its advanced stages as in early stages, it often does not cause any symptoms. Pancreatic cancer is completely resectable in early stages when it is localised (i.e. cancer is limited or confined to the pancreas). Less than 20% of people have cancer at a stage when the cancer can be surgically removed. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy do not cure the cancer.

When discussing the prognosis, the doctor will assess the five-year survival rate. Survival rates of a cancer indicate the proportion of people with a certain type and stage of cancer that live for a specific period of time after their diagnosis. This rate indicates the percentage of people with the disease, who are still alive five years after diagnosis (factors, such as signs or symptoms of cancer, presence or absence of disease or treatment are not considered). Stage of cancer is an important factor, which determines the prognosis and 5 year survival.

Some factors that affect the prognosis and survival rates for pancreatic cancer include:

  • whether or not it is possible to remove the tumour completely by surgery
  • stage of the cancer (whether the cancer is limited or confined within the pancreas, has spread beyond pancreas to nearby tissues, lymph nodes or to other parts of body)
  • your overall health
  • whether the cancer is diagnosed for the first time or has recurred (come back).

Based on studies, the 5 year survival rate of different stages of pancreatic cancer is as follows:

  • localised cancer (cancer limited or confined to the pancreas)- 16.4 percent
  • locally advanced cancer (cancer extends beyond the pancreas to involve nearby blood vessels or organs)- 7.0 percent
  • metastatic cancer (cancer which has spread to other parts of the body)-1.8 percent.



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