Here is how pancreatic cancer, which has a very dismal prognosis, is staged — explained in a way that you will understand.

Facts About this Disease

  • Five year survival rate is 8.5 percent.
  • Incidence is about 12 to 13 people per 100,000 in the United States.
  • There are numerous types of pancreatic cancer.
  • Severity of symptoms do not necessarily correlate to the stage of this illness.

“In order to provide the most accurate prognosis for patients with pancreatic cancer, and determine the best course of therapy, we stage the disease,” says Jordan Winter, MD, a hepato-pancreatic-biliary and oncology surgeon and Chief of the Division of Surgical Oncology at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center.

CT Scan: Diagnostic Tool of Choice

“This is done by getting a CT scan of the chest, abdomen and pelvis,” says Dr. Winter.

“Stage 1 disease is the earliest form and rarely encountered.” This is because by the time the symptoms of pancreatic cancer begin presenting, the disease has already spread.

There is also no screening procedure to detect the disease in its early stage.

Stage 1 pancreatic cancer is “less than 4 cm in size and there is no spread to the lymph nodes,” continues Dr. Winter.

“Pancreatic cancers that are greater than 4 cm, or have spread to the lymph nodes, are stage II. These tumors can often be removed with surgery.

“When the cancer has spread to many lymph nodes (four or more) or has invaded nearby blood vessels, it is stage III and considered to be locally advanced.

“These patients are typically advised to get chemotherapy or radiation, prior to consideration for surgery.

“Stage IV pancreatic cancer is defined as disease that has spread to other organs like the liver. Surgery or radiation would not be offered, and chemotherapy would be recommended as the preferred treatment strategy.”

In addition to surgical management of pancreatic and related cancers, Dr. Winter treats other upper gastrointestinal malignancies and abdominal tumors. He has authored over 100 peer-reviewed articles, many on pancreatic cancer.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.