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Prognosis of pancreatic cancer

Last reviewed dd mmm yyyy. Last edited dd mmm yyyy

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The prognosis of pancreatic carcinoma is very poor.

The benefit of surgical intervention is dependent on the site of the tumour. A Whipple's resection for carcinoma of the head of the pancreas can give, at best, a 5-year survival of 19%. An absence of lymph node involvement was associated with an improved prognosis.

Tumours of the body and tail of the pancreas are associated with a worse prognosis, whatever the mode of intervention, 1-year survival was 8-9%.

Pancreatic cancer has the worst survival rate of all cancers

  • 5-year survival is less than 3% (1,2,3)
  • around a fifth (21%) of people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in England and Wales survive their disease for one year or more (2010-11) (3)
  • pancreatic cancer survival is similar in men than women
  • pancreatic cancer survival in England is higher for people diagnosed aged under 50 years old (2009-2013) (3)
    • more than 3 in 20 men and around a quarter of women in England diagnosed with pancreatic cancer aged 15-49 survive their disease for five years or more, compared with only 2% of people diagnosed aged 80 and over (2009-2013)
    • pancreatic cancer survival has not shown much improvement in the last 40 years in the UK. In the 1970s, 1% of people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer survived their disease beyond ten years, now it's still 1%
  • 82% of people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the UK will die within a year as most are diagnosed with late stage disease
  • only 10% of patients are diagnosed in time for potentially curative surgery (4)
  • pancreatic cancer patients with a known stage are most commonly diagnosed at stage IV (68-69%)
    • more patients with a known stage are diagnosed at a late stage (79% are diagnosed at stage III or IV), than an early stage (21% are diagnosed at stage I or II (3)
  • those who are diagnosed in time for surgery have a 30% chance of surviving five years (5)


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