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  • Staging and prognosis of pancreatic cancer


    Staging pancreatic cancer

    Results of the tests will help your doctors assign a stage to describe how far the cancer has spread. The tables below show how pancreatic cancers may be staged.

    The following table shows the most common staging system used for pancreatic cancer, which is called the TNM system. In this system, letters are assigned numbers to describe the cancer.

    Your doctor may also just use numbers to describe the stage. The second table shows this type of staging. 

    Ask your doctor to explain the stage in a way that will help you understand the best treatment options for your situation.


    Prognosis means the expected outcome of a disease. You will need to discuss your prognosis and treatment options with your doctor, but it is impossible for any doctor to predict the exact course of your disease. Test results; the type, stage and location of the cancer; and other factors such as your age, fitness and medical history are all important when working out your prognosis.

    As symptoms can be vague or go unnoticed, pancreatic cancers – especially exocrine tumours – are often not found until they are advanced. Cancer that is locally advanced or metastatic (i.e. has spread to nearby organs) is difficult to treat successfully. If the cancer is detected at an early stage and can be surgically removed, the prognosis may be better, especially in the case of pancreatic neuroendocrine tumours.

    If cancer is advanced, surgery and other treatments may relieve symptoms and help improve quality of life.

    Which health professionals will I see?

    This website page was last reviewed and updated August 2017.

    Information taken from Understanding pancreatic cancer, last reviewed February 2016 by: A/Prof Vincent Lam, Associate Professor of Surgery, Sydney Medical School & Hepatobiliary, Pancreatic and Transplant Surgeon Westmead Hospital, NSW; Dr Phillip Tran, Radiation Oncologist, Site Director, Sunshine Hospital Radiation Therapy Centre, VIC; Dr Victoria Atkinson, Senior Medical Oncologist, Division of Cancer Services, Princess Alexandra Hospital, QLD; Alison Keay, Upper GI Cancer Nurse Coordinator, WA Cancer & Palliative Care Network, WA; Belinda Steer, Clinical Lead Dietitian, Nutrition and Speech Pathology Department, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC.

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