Signs That Pancreatic Cancer Has Spread
If your pancreatic cancer has spread, you may notice new symptoms. Most often, pancreatic cancer spreads to the liver, but it can also move into the lymph nodes, abdomen, lungs and, sometimes, the bones.
Advanced pancreatic cancer symptoms may include:
- General feeling of being unwell
- Swollen stomach caused by fluid buildup
- Lack of appetite
If you experience any of these symptoms, check with your doctor to determine a cause. Also, keep in mind that these symptoms may be due to other conditions.
Factors May Extend Survival In Advanced Pancreatic Cancer
A new Mayo Clinic study suggests that some patients with pancreatic cancer could increase survival with adjustments to their chemotherapy regimen before surgery.
Historically, most patients with pancreatic cancer whose tumors grow outside the pancreas to encompass veins and arteries have been told the cancer is inoperable and they should prepare for an average survival time of 12 to 18 months.
However, a newly published Mayo Clinic study finds that a presurgery treatment plan focused on three chemotherapy-related factors can extend life years beyond that average. The findings were published in the Annals of Surgery, the journal of the American Surgical Association and the European Surgical Association.
The study followed 194 Mayo Clinic patients who received chemotherapy followed by radiation and surgery. An average survival time of 58.8 months, or just under five years, was achieved.
The researchers found that patients who had three factors experienced significantly longer survival times than those who didn’t have these factors:
- Extended chemotherapy before surgery the more cycles they had, the longer the survival
- A CA 19-9 tumor marker that fell to a normal level after chemotherapy
- A tumor that, when surgically removed, was found to be completely or mostly dead due to chemotherapy
The Mayo Clinic study refutes that conventional wisdom.
Testing For Pancreatic Cancer In People At High Risk
For people in families at high risk of pancreatic cancer, newer tests for detecting pancreatic cancer early may help. The two most common tests used are an endoscopic ultrasoundor MRI. These tests are not used to screen the general public, but might be used for someone with a strong family history of pancreatic cancer or with a known genetic syndrome that increases their risk. Doctors have been able to find early, treatable pancreatic cancers in some members of high-risk families with these tests.
Doctors are also studying other new tests to try to find pancreatic cancer early. Interested families at high risk may wish to take part in studies of these new screening tests.
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Moffitt Cancer Centers Approach To Pancreatic Cancer Treatment
Within Moffitt Cancer Centers 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 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.
Pancreatic Cancer Prognosis And Survival
Pancreatic cancer is unique to every patient, and it is not possible for anyone to estimate exactly how long you will live with the disease. Survival depends on your current health, any other conditions you have and your general level of fitness. It also depends on the stage of your cancer when it is diagnosed.
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Mayo Clinic Minute: Pancreatic Cancer Is The Most Lethal
Pancreatic cancer can be a frightening diagnosis. Compared to most other cancers, survival rates are much lower and death often occurs at a more rapid pace. In this Mayo Clinic Minute, a leading expert in pancreatic cancer at Mayo Clinic explains more about the disease and potential future improvements in treating and screening for it.
Journalists: Broadcast-quality video pkg is in the downloads at the end of the post.Please courtesy: “Mayo Clinic News Network.” Read the script.
Pancreatic cancer is the most lethal cancer in the human body with overall five-year survival rates at just about 7 percent, despite all the advances over the past decades, says Dr. Santhi Swaroop Vege, director of the pancreatic diseases group at Mayo Clinic.
There are no telltale signs for pancreatic cancer, and symptoms like weight loss, abdominal pain, jaundice and appetite loss are nonspecific.
“That’s one of the biggest problems we face,” says Dr. Vege. “Usually, these people will have indigestion, acid reflux … before finally somebody thinks of doing a CT scan. And by that time, it’s already late.”
He says treatments can be any combination of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and endoscopic procedures.
“If it is localized to the pancreas and if it is not involving the major structures, then the best treatment, of course, is resection a big surgery,” says Dr. Vege.
Some People Want To Know How Long They May Have Left To Live This Is Called Your Prognosis Outlook Or Life Expectancy This Page Explains Prognosis If You Have Cancer That Can’t Be Removed With Surgery
The prognosis will be different for each person, and depends on several things, including how far the cancer has spread, how well you are, and what treatments you can have.
You may not want to know your prognosis. Everyone is different, and it is up to you whether you find out about your prognosis. But if you do want to know, talk to your doctor they should be able to give you an idea of what to expect. There is a lot of information about pancreatic cancer online and not all of it is accurate, so its important to speak to your doctor about your own situation.
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Local Survivor Inspires With Her Story Of Survival And Advocacy For Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month
News provided by
Susan Popik during cancer treatment and after treatment , cooking lasagnas for the neighborhood
Sue Popik, Chair of SFs Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, beat improbable odds to become an advocate and top fundraiser against the worlds toughest cancer
During an annual check-up a few years ago, Popik asked her doctor how many pancreatic cancer patients hed worked with who had survived. His response: ‘Well, now I have one.’
Pancreatic Cancer Metasised To Liver
My husband is 56, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, on 1st June 2016 . We were told that it was inoperable and incurable but he would be given the option of chemo. He had 5 cycles of Folfirinox however a recent scan revealed that the chemo hadnt worked and the tumours had increased in size. He was offered an alternative chemotherapy Gemcitabine and has had 3 treatments so far. He is extremely thin as he finds it very difficult to eat. He has some food tends to be ice cream or sugary sweet desserts and he has two fortisip protein drinks each day.
We have three children 17, 18 and 23 who each deal with the situation differently. We are very strong and remain positive however the question of how long have we got? Is like a black cloud that just wont go away. We try to do as much as we can but sometimes the pain is too bad and we lose days. The chemo doesnt give him many side effects, his pain is the biggest problem.
In the original consultation meeting, the oncologist gave a prognosis of 3-6 months of the first chemo worked, and it didnt. Were now in the 5th month and although my husband is fighting hard, the time line haunts me.
Id love to hear from anyone going through the same journey.
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Survival For Pancreatic Cancer
Pancreatic cancer is often diagnosed at an advanced stage. Your outlook is better if your cancer hasn’t spread and you can have surgery to remove it.
Survival depends on many factors. No one can tell you exactly how long you will live.
Below are general statistics based on large groups of people. Remember, they cant tell you what will happen in your individual case.
Changing How I Thought
Had that doctor said Lets try chemotherapy I would have done it and looked no further. But I was told nothing could be done. Being told nothing can be done was life-changing for me.
I took a leave from my job and started researching. But the negativity increased when I went to a bookstore and looked up pancreatic cancer. Remember, the statistics were worse 20 years ago than they are today. I slammed the book shut and decided I was never going to read anything negative about pancreatic cancer or stage IV cancers of any type.
I had spent most of my lifetime asking the question Why do some people manage or navigate more successfully through the worst circumstanceswhat do they bring to those situations? I decided to put into practice those characteristics, to do what I could to live happier and if possible longer. In the first shock of the prognosis, I asked How can I have the best death? Soon after, I turned my attention to those people who live longer than the odds or even survive. The hundreds of articles and research studies became the basis of my healing program.
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The Limitations Of Survival Rates
Survival rates are estimates and are based on previous outcomes of large numbers of people who had a specific cancer, but they cant predict what will happen in any particular persons case. They also dont take into account multiple factors that could play a role in survival such as age, overall health, and how well a person’s cancer responds to treatment.
Survival Rates: What To Know
Because doctors rarely find pancreatic cancer in its early stages when its easiest to treat, its one of the most deadly cancers. About 9% of people with pancreatic cancer live at least 5 years after diagnosis. But the 5-year survival rate is much better — 34% — if it hasnt spread past the pancreas. Know that survival rates cant predict what will happen to any single person and may not reflect newer types of treatment.
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Our Approach To Pancreatic Cancer
Johns Hopkins pancreatic surgeons perform a variety of innovative techniques to treat pancreatic cancer, including operations using both traditional open methods and minimally invasive methods. During one appointment at our multidisciplinary clinic, patients will meet with experienced specialists who will care for them at every stage of the journey.
What Are The Stages Of Cancer And What Do They Mean
Resectable Staging One system that doctors use for pancreatic cancer staging focuses on whether it’s possible to surgically remove the entire tumor. With this staging system, a tumor is described as “resectable” when it’s contained within the pancreas and small enough to remove, “borderline resectable” when it’s possible surgery won’t get the entire tumor, or “nonresectable” when the tumor within the pancreas is too large or because it has metastasized and spread to other organs and tissue.
TNM Staging This stands for tumor, node, and metastasis staging.
- Tumor When doctors see at least some evidence of a tumor, T category staging ranges from “Tis,” for carcinoma in situ that is limited to the outer layers of pancreatic duct cells and easiest to treat, to “T4” for cancer that has spread beyond the pancreas to surrounding organs and tissue as well as nerves or large blood vessels.
- Node When doctors can assess lymph nodes, they will assign N categories: N0 is the stage when they don’t see cancer in the nodes and N1 is when cancer has spread to surrounding lymph nodes.
- Metastasis When doctors can assess whether the cancer has spread beyond the pancreas, the staging is M0 for cases when it has not reached surrounding tissue, organs or lymph nodes, and M1 when it has.
Numerical Staging After doctors do TNM staging, they may combine these categories in a numerical staging system from 0 to 4, with lower stages indicating easier to treat tumors with a better prognosis.
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Surgery To Help Control Symptoms Of Pancreatic Cancer
This can include surgery to:
- unblock the bile duct or stop it getting blocked, which helps with jaundice
- unblock the first part of the small intestine or to stop it getting blocked, which helps with feeling or being sick
Many of these procedures are done using endoscopy. Where the surgeon uses a long, thin, flexible tube to reach the blockage or organ.
The aim of these operations is to help improve your symptoms, not to cure the cancer.
What Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer Means
Doctors use stages when they talk about how cancer has grown or spread. Stage 4 is the last stage. It means that cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body. When this happens, cancer is called metastatic.
One way to stage cancer is called the TNM system. It has 3 parts:
- T : This part is based on how big a tumor is and where it has spread to. The T rating goes from T0 to T4. In stage 4 pancreatic cancer, the primary tumor can have any T rating.
- N : Lymph nodes help filter substances in the body. When cancer cells get to the lymph nodes, it’s easier for them to spread. Stage 4 pancreatic cancer can have an N rating of N1 or N2 .
- M : Metastasis means cancer has spread to other organs and lymph nodes. There are only two M stages: M0 or M1. Any pancreatic cancer with an M1 rating is at stage 4.
Where Do These Numbers Come From
The American Cancer Society relies on information from the SEER* database, maintained by the National Cancer Institute , to provide survival statistics for different types of cancer.
The SEER database tracks 5-year relative survival rates for pancreatic cancer in the United States, based on how far the cancer has spread. The SEER database, however, does not group cancers by AJCC TNM stages . Instead, it groups cancers into localized, regional, and distant stages:
- Localized: There is no sign that the cancer has spread outside of the pancreas.
- Regional: The cancer has spread from the pancreas to nearby structures or lymph nodes.
- Distant: The cancer has spread to distant parts of the body such as the lungs, liver or bones.
Key Points For Patients
- This paper documents 11 long-term pancreatic adenocarcinoma survivors treated at VMMC who never had curative surgery
- At diagnosis, all long-term survivors were fully active , had normal albumin levels, and tumors at the head of the pancreas
- 2% of VMMCs non-resected patients from 1995 to 2009 were 5-year survivors
- All non-metastatic patients were treated with some type of combined chemoradiation
- Most long-term survivors were overweight which the authors indicate may confer a survival advantage with diseases associated with wasting
- Long-term survivors were less likely to develop distant metastases with peritoneal metastases being the most survivable
- Of the 6 deaths recorded, 4 were not directly related to the tumor
- These patients were treated with VMMCs preferred treatments. This report does not indicate superiority of their treatment regimen. Data from other institutions would be needed for valid comparisons.
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What Happens If You’ve Been Told Your Cancer Cannot Be Cured
If you have advanced pancreatic cancer it might be very hard to treat. It may not be possible to cure the cancer.
If this is the case, the aim of your treatment will be to limit the cancer and its symptoms, and help you live longer.
Finding out the cancer cannot be cured can be very hard news to take in.
You will be referred to a special team of doctors and nurses called the palliative care team or symptom control team.
They will work with you to help manage your symptoms and make you feel more comfortable.
The clinical nurse specialist or palliative care team can also help you and your loved ones get any support you need.
How Is Pancreatic Cancer Staged
Pancreatic cancer is usually staged differently than other types of cancers. While many cancers are staged using the TNM system, which categorizes tumors based on diagnostic tests and classifications that happen during surgery, many patients with pancreatic cancer dont have surgery, so the TNM system isnt used as often to stage these diseases.
Instead, pancreatic cancer tumors are more often classified into one of four categories based on where they have spread and whether theyre able to be removed during surgery. The categories are as follows:
This type of cancer hasnt spread outside the pancreas or has only gone just past it. Resectable cancer can be removed by surgery.
With this type of pancreatic cancer, the tumor may, when first diagnosed, appear to be too difficult to remove surgically. However, surgery may still be an option if the tumor can be reduced in size through radiation therapy or chemotherapy treatment.
Locally advanced cancer has spread just beyond the pancreas and may have reached nearby arteries, veins or organswhich means surgery is not an option. However, it hasnt spread into more distant areas of the body.
Metastatic cancer has spread beyond the pancreas into distant areas of the body, such as the liver, abdomen or lungs. If youve been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, your care team will let you know the stage of your cancer, along with what it means for your treatment plan.