Survival statistics for pancreatic cancer | Cancer Research UK
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Statistics and outlook of pancreatic cancer

Outlook means your chances of getting better. Your doctor may call this your prognosis. With pancreatic cancer, the likely outcome depends on how advanced the cancer is when it is diagnosed.

In this page, we have quite detailed information about the likely outcome of different stages of pancreatic cancer. The statistics are intended as a general guide only. For the more complete picture in your case, you’d have to speak to your own specialist.

We include statistics because people ask for them, but not everyone wishes to read this type of information. Remember you can skip this page if you don't want to read it. You can always come back to it.

How reliable are cancer statistics?

No statistics can tell you what will happen to you. Your cancer is unique. The same type of cancer can grow at different rates in different people. The statistics cannot tell you about the different treatments people may have had, or how that treatment may have affected their prognosis. There are many individual factors that will affect your treatment and your outlook.

CR PDF Icon You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the treating pancreatic cancer section.



Pancreatic cancer survival

Find out about pancreatic cancer survival.

People ask us for this information but not everyone with cancer wants to read it. If you are not sure whether you want to know at the moment, you can always come back to it later.

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

No one can tell you exactly how long you’ll live with pancreatic cancer. It depends on your individual situation and treatment. No two patients are exactly alike and response to treatment also varies from one person to another.

Your doctor can give you more information about your own outlook (prognosis). Or you can talk to the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040, from 9 to 5, Monday to Friday.


Survival by stage

There are no UK-wide statistics for pancreatic cancer survival by stage. The following statistics come from one area of England, and from international studies.

Early stages

If the cancer has not spread outside of 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 those who do not live this long, it is likely that a small number of cancer cells 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 are capable of growing into other tumours later.

Advances 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.

For locally advanced disease (stage 3) which cannot be removed by an operation, the median survival is about 6 to 11 months.

For cancer which 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. 

Read more about the stages of pancreatic cancer.


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 disease 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.



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.

The following 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 a true 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 outcome depends on the stage of the cancer when it was diagnosed. This means how big it is and whether it has spread.

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

Your likely survival is also affected by whether the surgeon can remove all the cancer during surgery.  


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. Many people live much longer than 5 years.

On this page, the 1,5 and 10 year survival statistics for all stages of pancreatic cancer are for relative survival. Relative survival takes into account that some people will die of causes other than cancer. This gives a more accurate picture of cancer survival.


Clinical trials

Taking part in clinical trials can help to improve the outlook for people in the future. There is information about clinical trials in the trials and research section.

pancreatic cancer treatment


More statistics

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

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

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Updated: 17 June 2015