Metastatic pancreatic cancer is cancer that starts in the pancreas and spreads to other organs, most commonly within the abdomen and to the liver, lungs, bones and brain. No matter where it spreads in the body, it is still considered pancreatic cancer. (For instance, cancer that spreads from the pancreas to the liver is not considered liver cancer.)
Stage 4A and 4B pancreatic cancer
Oncologists use a process known as staging to determine how far pancreatic cancer has spread. Stages 1, 2 and 3 indicate that the cancer has not spread outside of the pancreas, while stage 4 indicates metastatic pancreatic cancer.
Depending on where the cancer has spread, metastatic pancreatic cancer can be classified as:
- Stage 4A – The cancer has spread to nearby organs or blood vessels that surround the pancreas
- Stage 4B – The cancer has spread to distant organs, such as the liver, lungs or bones
This information – along with the size, location and cellular makeup of the tumor – can influence decisions regarding the best approach to treatment.
Metastatic pancreatic cancer treatment
When cancer spreads outside of the pancreas, surgery may or may not be recommended. It’s more common for oncologists to recommend systemic treatments (which can circulate throughout the entire body and destroy cancerous cells in multiple locations) for metastatic pancreatic cancer.
Chemotherapy and targeted therapy are two types of systemic treatment that are often recommended for patients with late-stage pancreatic cancer. Some patients also choose to enroll in clinical trials to access novel therapies, such as immunotherapies that are currently being compared to other options.
At Moffitt Cancer Center, we provide a comprehensive range of pancreatic cancer treatments. Our oncologists help patients explore their options for metastatic pancreatic cancer treatment and develop a plan that’s right for their specific needs. Each treatment plan is fully individualized and incorporates evidence-based best practices. Our ultimate goal is to help every patient obtain not only the best possible outcome, but also a high quality of life.
"Metastatic pancreas cancer occurs when the cancer cells, malignant cells, travel to other part of the body. For example, pancreas cancer can metastasize or travel to the liver. Cancer cells can travel to other parts of the body through the blood or lymphatic system. Pancreatic cancer typically spreads to the lymph nodes, liver, lung, bones and abdominal cavity. Pancreas cancer that has spread is rarely cured."- Dr. Estrella Carballido
Medically Reviewed by Dr. Estrella Carballido.
If you’d like to talk with an oncologist specializing in pancreatic cancer about your treatment options, call 1-888-663-3488 or submit a new patient registration form online to request an appointment at Moffitt. Referrals are welcome, but never required.