There is considerable overlap between the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer and the staging of the cancer. The results of various diagnostic tests will indicate how far the cancer has progressed and determine the stage. Subsequent decicions about treatment will be based upon the stage assigned.
Although different stages carry different prognoses, it is important to remember that the Median isn't the Message (an excellent article regarding prognoses and statistics by Stephen Jay Gould).
The charts below are part of a very common system used by doctors to stage pancreatic tumors. These particular charts are for pancreatic carcinoma. The staging system varies slightly for tumors of the bile duct or ampulla of Vater.
The stage of a pancreatic cancer is determined by 3 factors: T, N, and M. A value is assigned for each of these factors based on the diagnostic test results. Click on these links to see the how each factor is ranked or scaled.
T= location and size of the tumor
N= evidence of metastases in lymph nodes close to the cancer
M= evidence of distant metastases
|Stage Grouping for Primary Tumors of the Exocrine Pancreas|
|Stage||Tumor||Regional Lymph Nodes||Distant Metastases|
|Stage III||T4||any N||M0|
|Stage IV||any T||any N||M1|
|Definition of Tumor (T)|
|TX||Primary tumor cannot be assessed|
|T0||No evidence of primary tumor|
|Tis||In situ carcinoma|
|T1||Tumor limited to the pancreas, 2 cm or less in greatest dimension|
|T2||Tumor limited to the pancreas, more than 2 cm in greatest dimension|
|T3||Tumor extends beyond the pancreas but without involvement of the celiac axis or the superior mesenteric artery|
|T4||Tumor involves the celiac axis or superior mesenteric artery (unresectable primary tumor)|
|Definition of Regional Lymph Nodes (N)|
|NX||Regional lymph nodes cannot be assessed|
|N0||No regional lymph node metastasis|
|N1||Regional lymph node metastasis|
The American Cancer Society reports the 5-year survival rates for a number of cancers (http://www.cancer.org/docroot/STT/stt_0.asp). The overall 5-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer is 5.1% (all stages). For patients with pancreatic cancer that has spread to other organs (metastasized) the reported survival rate is 1.8%. this increases to 8.2% for patients with regional disease and to 20.0% for patients with localized disease.