The pancreatic cancer survival rate continues to improve as research leads to new and better ways to diagnose and treat the condition. However, when discussing the survival rate, it’s important to remember that it is nothing more than a statistic. Every patient is unique and every cancer is different. A statistic can only describe what happened retrospectively in a very large group—it does not take into account the advances in cancer care that are being made every single day, nor can it predict the outcome in any individual situation. In fact, some patients live much longer than the amount of time that would be anticipated based on the survival rate alone.
Facts about the pancreatic cancer survival rate
Of course, a patient might be interested in learning as much as he or she can about the condition, including its pancreatic cancer survival rate. The following points hold true regarding the prognosis for pancreatic cancer:
- An early and accurate diagnosis and prompt, appropriate treatment can improve a patient’s outlook.
- Patients who undergo surgery tend to experience better outcomes than patients who are treated nonsurgically.
- All other things being equal, a newly diagnosed cancer patient can potentially experience a better outcome than a patient who was diagnosed several years ago due to recent scientific developments.
- Many individual factors can influence pancreatic cancer outcomes, such as a patient’s overall health and wellness.
Current survival rate statistics for pancreatic cancer
While the pancreatic cancer survival rate is just a statistic, it’s still a good idea to understand the current numbers so that you have a full picture of this disease. The American Cancer Society groups the survival rate statistics into two categories: SEER stage and 5-year relative survival rate.
SEER stands for surveillance, epidemiology and end results. It groups cancers into localized (cancer has not spread beyond the pancreas), regional (cancer has spread to nearby structures or lymph nodes) and distant (cancer has spread to distant regions of the body).
5-year relative survival rate
The 5-year relative survival rate compares people with pancreatic cancer with the overall population. For instance, if the 5-year relative survival rate is 65%, that means those with pancreatic cancer are 65% as likely as those without cancer to live five years after diagnosis.
Here are the current survival rate statistics for pancreatic cancer:
- Localized pancreatic cancer – 39%
- Regional pancreatic cancer – 13%
- Distant pancreatic cancer – 3%
- All SEER stages combined – 10%
As mentioned above, there is a lot that survival rate statistics do not take into account and, as such, the best way to understand these numbers and apply them to your condition is to have a discussion with your doctor.
What is locally advanced pancreatic cancer?
Locally advanced pancreatic cancer is considered stage 3 cancer. It is cancer that has spread beyond the pancreas, typically to large blood vessels near the pancreas or to nearby lymph nodes. In most cases, the cancer is too advanced to be fully removed. Treatment for locally advanced pancreatic cancer is highly individualized based on the patient’s overall health, tumor spread and personal desires, but may include:
- Surgery to remove a portion of the tumor
- Chemotherapy or radiation therapy to slow the spread of cancerous cells and provide symptom relief
- Clinical trials
Where does pancreatic cancer metastasize to?
Metastatic cancer refers to the process of cancerous cells spreading from their site of origin to another area of the body. No matter where in the body it spreads to, the cancer will always be classified as the original cancer type. Pancreatic cancer most commonly metastasizes to the:
- Lymph nodes
- Celiac plexus, a bundle of nerves located in the abdomen
- Portal vein, which carries blood from the liver to the digestive organs
- Ligament of Treitz, a muscle that wraps around the small intestine
Moffitt Cancer Center’s approach to pancreatic cancer treatment
Within Moffitt Cancer Center’s Gastrointestinal Oncology Program, our pancreatic cancer patients not only have access to some of the best surgeons in the country but also benefit from the latest treatment options, a wide range of clinical trials and compassionate support, all of which are provided in a single, convenient location. Moffitt is the only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center based in Florida, and we remain positioned firmly at the forefront of cancer research, with survival rates that exceed national averages.
If you have questions about the pancreatic cancer survival rate, call Moffitt Cancer Center at 1-888-663-3488 or submit a new patient registration form online. You are a top priority for a cancer center that delivers nationally ranked care in new and transformative ways, and you can connect with one of our cancer experts within a day.