The survival rate statistics for pancreatic cancer often refer to the five-year survival rate for the cancer. Cancer survival rates show the percentage of people who remain alive for five years, after the diagnosis. These survival rates include patients who have few or no pancreatic cancer symptoms or are free of disease or are receiving treatment for the cancer.
Cancer of the pancreas is generally not identified in early stages. Symptoms of the cancer include lethargy/fatigue, weight loss, indigestion problems, jaundice, severe pain in the abdominal area, problems with appetite, diarrhea, weakness, digestion problems, etc. Such type of problems are often considered as simple problems due to indigestion or acidity and are often ignored. The tests which can help diagnose pancreatic cancer are abdominal MRI, CT scan, biopsy, ultrasound test, etc. Surgery, radiotherapy, hormone therapy, medication, chemotherapy, nutritional therapy, etc. are some of the available treatment options.
As mentioned above, cancer growing in the pancreas is generally not detected during its early stages. Due to the location of the pancreas, it is even difficult to treat the cancer. Many times, the cancer is discovered during the last stage. For such cases, cancer treatment may not work and the disease may eventually lead to death. Pancreatic cancer life expectancy depends upon how early the cancer is diagnosed. If the cancer is detected in early stages, patients live much longer.
Stages and Survival Rates of Pancreatic Cancer
A very small tumor, occupying only a small place in the pancreas is formed during the first stage. It is possible to remove the tumor surgically and so this stage of pancreatic cancer has a high survival rate. There is a good chance of surviving at least up to the five-year mark. Unfortunately, the cancer is not usually found when it is in the first stage. The survival rate increases significantly if the patient undergoes the surgery at this stage. After the surgery, instead of 10%, almost 20% people are able to live up to five years.
During this stage, the cancer is still considered as treatable; because, though the tumor in pancreas has grown, it is still confined to the pancreas. The cancerous cells may spread to the surrounding lymph nodes. Removal of cancer tumor and the lymph nodes is still an available option. During this stage, the cancer can be treated with various cancer killing medications. But, it has been observed that only 20% of the people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at this stage are able to live past the one-year mark. According to the available study reports of the American Cancer Society, less than 5% of the people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer will make it to the five-year mark.
During the third stage, the disease spreads to the surrounding lymph nodes and even into the blood vessels. This is known as locally advanced cancer. The tumor still can be removed along with the surrounding lymph nodes but, the cancer cannot be entirely removed from the body. Though the doctor will try his best to stop further growth and spread of the disease, it will be quite difficult or nearly impossible at this stage.
Stage 4 is attained quickly; once the disease enters into the third stage. During the fourth stage, the cancer spreads throughout the body and into the bones, through blood stream. At this stage, it is not treatable and the doctor will put the patient on a pain treatment plan to minimize the pain. Survival rate for the fourth stage pancreatic cancer is very poor. Median survival time from diagnosis is around 3 to 6 months or the survival can even be limited to only a couple of days.
In general, the survival rate of pancreatic cancer is very low, just around one year on an average. As it is not possible to detect the cancer at an earlier stage, it grows fast and spreads throughout the body. But remember, these survival rates are based on large groups of people and so, they cannot be used to predict what will happen to a particular patient. This article is for informative purposes only and does not in any way attempt to replace the advice offered by an expert on the subject. It should always be kept in mind that no two patients are exactly alike and pancreatic cancer treatment and responses to the treatments vary greatly from patient to patient. Let us hope that very soon, this dreadful disease is completely eradicated; so that our future generations will be able to lead a fear-free and healthy life.