What are the Stages of Pancreatic Cancer Progression?

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  • Written By: Erin J. Hill
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 12 September 2019
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Pancreatic cancer progression is broken down into stages, with there being four main stages and two sub-stages. Stages I and II are the least severe, while States III and IV mean that cancer has been found in other organs far away from the pancreas. Treatment is most effective if the cancer is caught early.

The first stage in pancreatic cancer progression is stage I. During this stage, cancer cells are only found on the pancreas itself and they have not moved into the surrounding ducts, lymph nodes, or beyond. This is the easiest stage to treat and survival rates are much higher for stage I cancers than for more progressed stages. Unfortunately, pancreatic cancer has vague symptoms and often none at all, so catching it in its earliest stage is difficult.

Stage II is the second stage of pancreatic cancer progression, when cancer cells have spread beyond the pancreas and into the surrounding organs, such as the bile duct, but have not yet moved into the lymph nodes. This stage is still fairly easy to treat in comparison to the later stages, but it is still difficult to catch.


The next stage of pancreatic cancer progression is stage III. During this stage, cancerous cells or tumors are found in the pancreas and also in surrounding organs or in the lymph nodes closets to the pancreas. Treatment is much more difficult during stage III cancer, and survival rates begin to decline rapidly once the disease has reached this level.

Stages IV-A and IV-B are the most severe stages of pancreatic cancer progression because during these stages the cancer has spread into organs farther from the pancreas throughout the rest of the body. Stage IV-A means that organs closer to the pancreas have been affected, although they are farther than the lymph nodes. Stage IV-B means any organs may have been impacted, including the lungs, heart, liver, kidneys, or brain.

Each patient may have a slightly different pancreatic cancer progression. Cancers can spread quickly or very slowly, or they may begin slowly and progress with greater speed over time. This is why survival rates vary from individual to individual. Pancreatic cancer is generally an aggressive type, and cases are not normally discovered until the disease has metastasized.

Treatments for cancer of the pancreas include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery. A combination of two of more of these therapies may be used to increase effectiveness. Even with early and aggressive treatment, pancreatic cancer is one of the most deadly forms, and the prognosis is not good for most patients.


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Post 3

@Phaedrus: I'm happy that there was such a good outcome for your Uncle!

Can you please tell us what the experimental pancreatic cancer treatment was?

Post 2

@Reminiscence- I'm sorry for your loss. Pancreatic cancer symptoms are often confused with other conditions. Because the pancreas provides insulin, some of the early signs of pancreatic cancer can look like signs of diabetes. That's what happened with my uncle. He started having problems keeping his blood sugar under control, then he had severe abdominal pains and digestive issues. His family doctor didn't suspect pancreatic cancer at first, so he put my uncle on the same treatment plan as type 2 diabetics.

By the time my uncle received the pancreatic cancer prognosis, he was at Stage II. An oncologist put him on an experimental pancreatic cancer treatment, and miraculously he went into remission. He was one of the lucky ones, because the oncologist told us that the average pancreatic cancer life expectancy after diagnosis was 6 months to 2 years.

Post 1

My mother was originally diagnosed with colon-rectal cancer when she started having digestive system problems. After months of treatment, the doctors ran other tests and discovered it was actually pancreatic cancer. By that point, she was already at stage III. Because the pancreas is in physical contact with many other abdominal organs, the cancer cells have plenty of opportunities to spread. She also had cancer cells in her lymph nodes, which meant they could metastasize to other organs outside of the abdomen.

We learned that the pancreatic cancer survival rate was very low at the time. She went through rounds of chemotherapy and other pancreatic cancer treatments, but she just got weaker over time. She eventually died from a fluid buildup on her lungs. The autopsy showed cancer in her breasts, lungs, kidneys, stomach and pancreas.

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