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Survival

Find out about survival for pancreatic cancer.

Survival depends on many factors, so no one can tell you exactly how long you will live. It depends on your individual condition, type of cancer, treatment and level of fitness.

These are general statistics based on large groups of patients. Remember, they can’t tell you what will happen in your individual case.

Your doctor can give you more information about your own outlook (prognosis).

You can also talk about this with the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040, from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

Survival by stage

Most pancreatic cancers are a type called adenocarcinoma. They are also called exocrine tumours. 

Survival for early stages of pancreatic cancer

If the cancer hasn't spread outside the pancreas and surgery is possible, between 7 and 25 out of 100 people (7 to 25%) will survive for 5 years or more. 

In people who don't live this long, it is likely that a small number of cancer cells had spread from the pancreas before surgery and travelled to other parts of the body. These cells would have been too small to be picked up on scans, but can grow into other tumours later.

Advanced stages

The following figures are for median survival. Median survival is the length of time from either diagnosis or treatment, to the point at which half of the patients are still alive.

Cancer that has spread beyond the pancreas into surrounding tissues is called locally advanced cancer or stage 3. If it can't be removed by an operation, the median survival is about 6 to 11 months.

For cancer that has spread to another part of the body (stage 4) the median survival is only between 2 and 6 months. But this can vary depending on how much the cancer has grown and where it has spread. 

Survival for all stages of pancreatic cancer

Generally for adults with pancreatic cancer in England and Wales:

  • around 20 in every 100 (around 20%) survive their cancer for 1 year or more after they are diagnosed
  • almost 5 out of every 100 (almost 5%) survive their cancer for 5 years or more 
  • only 1 out of every 100 (1%) will survive their cancer for 10 years or more after diagnosis

One reason for the poor outlook for pancreatic cancer is that it is often diagnosed late. By the time someone has symptoms, goes to their doctor and is diagnosed, the cancer is very often quite advanced.

Only about 10 to 20 out of every 100 people (10 to 20%) can have surgery, which gives the best chance of cure for this type of cancer.

Survival for pancreatic endocrine tumours

Pancreatic endocrine (or neuroendocrine) tumours are an uncommon type of pancreatic cancer. They generally have a better outlook than adenocarcinoma of the pancreas. These statistics are from an American study, looking at patients diagnosed between 1985 and 2004.

Please be aware that due to differences in health care systems, data collection and the population, these figures are not an accurate picture of survival in the UK.

  • 55 out of 100 people (55%) who have surgery for an early stage tumour survive for 5 years or more
  • Around 15 out of 100 people (around 15%) who are unable to have surgery survive for 5 years or more.

What affects survival

Your outlook depends on the stage of the cancer when it was diagnosed. This means how big it is and whether it has spread.

The type of cancer and grade of the cancer cells can also affect your likely survival. Grade means how abnormal the cells look under the microscope.

Your general health and fitness also affect survival because overall, the fitter you are, the better you may be able to cope with your cancer and treatment.

About these statistics

The term 5 year survival doesn't mean you will only live for 5 years. It relates to the number of people who live 5 years or more after their diagnosis of cancer.

More information about statistics

Read more about understanding cancer statistics and incidence, mortality and survival statistics.

For more in depth information about survival and other statistics for pancreatic cancer, go to our Cancer Statistics section.

Last reviewed: 
27 Sep 2016
  • Northern and Yorkshire Cancer Registry and Information Service (NYCRIS)

  • Long-term results of partial pancreaticoduodenectomy for ductal adenocarcinoma of the pancreatic head: 25-year experience
    A Richter and others
    World Journal of Surgery 2003;27(3):324-9

  • The time of occurrence of liver metastasis in carcinoma of the pancreas
    K Amikura and S Matsuno
    International Journal of Pancreatology, 1995;17(2):139-46

  • An evaluation of radical resection for pancreatic cancer based on the mode of recurrence as determined by autopsy and diagnostic imaging
    M Kayahara and others
    Cancer 1993;72(7):2118-23

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