Pancreatic cancer is a serious disease that can be hard to diagnose and treat. The stage of pancreatic cancer will determine the best treatment options and survival rates. This article explains how doctors use the TNM system to stage pancreatic cancer according to the tumor, lymph nodes, and metastasis in each patient.
Stage 1 pancreatic cancer
Stage 1 pancreatic cancer is the least advanced stage of the disease. The tumor is no more than 2 centimeters (cm) across, and a CT scan shows that it hasn’t spread to nearby lymph nodes or other organs. A doctor will also look at the tumor’s borders and whether it’s solid or has cystic areas.
Stage 1 pancreatic cancer accounts for about 13% of all cases. It is diagnosed in about 34,000 Americans each year, but only one percent will die from it within five years if they don’t have any other health problems.
Most people with this diagnosis can expect to be treated with surgery alone or surgery followed by radiation therapy (called adjuvant treatment). In some cases, chemotherapy may be recommended as well; however, there is no standard chemotherapy regimen used for these patients because their tumors are not likely to respond as well as others do.
Stage 2 pancreatic cancer
Stage 2 pancreatic cancer is divided into stages 2A and 2B. In stage 2A, the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes. If it has not spread to lymph nodes, stage 2B describes a disease that is much more advanced and likely to be fatal. This can happen in one of two ways:
- The cancer has spread to distant lymph nodes or other parts of the body (distant metastasis)
- It has grown along the surface of your pancreas, but hasn’t yet invaded surrounding tissues
Stage 3 pancreatic cancer
Stage 3 pancreatic cancer is more likely to spread to other parts of the body than Stage 1 or 2. Treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. The chance that the disease will be fatal is greater than in Stages 1 and 2.
Stage 4 pancreatic cancer
Stage 4 pancreatic cancer is the most advanced stage of the disease. It includes tumors that have spread to other organs in your body, such as your liver or lungs. Stage 4 pancreatic cancer is often called metastatic pancreatic cancer because of this spread.
In contrast to earlier stages where surgery or other treatments may be able to stop the growth of tumor cells, by the time a person has developed advanced-stage pancreatic cancer, their doctor will already know that these treatments won’t work for them and instead focus on managing pain and improving quality of life.
Pancreatic cancer is a serious disease and it gets worse as the stage increases.
Pancreatic cancer is a serious disease that is not only aggressive, but also difficult to diagnose. Pancreatic cancer has a high mortality rate when left undiagnosed and untreated, often resulting in patients passing away within one year of diagnosis. The five-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer is only about 15%.
Unfortunately, these statistics get worse as the stage increases:
- Stage 1 – 5% survival after five years
- Stage 2 – 10% chance of surviving longer than 5 years
- Stages 3 & 4 – 7% chance at surviving longer than 5 years
Pancreatic cancer is a serious disease, and it gets worse as the stage increases. The most important thing you can do if you think you might have pancreatic cancer is to get medical attention right away. If your doctor thinks it’s possible that you have pancreatic cancer, they’ll probably order tests like an MRI or CT scan so they can see what’s happening inside your body. If they find something suspicious on these tests, they’ll refer you to a specialist who has experience treating this type of tumor in its earliest stages when it’s still treatable with surgery or chemotherapy drugs