Cancer Research UK on Google+ Cancer Research UK on Facebook Cancer Research UK on Twitter

The stages of pancreatic cancer

Men and women discussing pancreatic cancer

This page is about the stages of pancreatic cancer. You can find the following information

 

A quick guide to what's on this page

The stages of pancreatic cancer

The stage of a cancer tells the doctor how far it has spread. It is important because treatment is often decided according to the stage of a cancer.

TNM stages of pancreatic cancer

TNM stands for Tumour, Node, Metastasis. This system describes the size of a primary tumour (T), whether there are lymph nodes with cancer cells in them (N) and if the cancer has spread to a different part of the body (M).

  • T stages - There are 5 stages of tumour size in pancreatic cancer. Tis (carcinoma in situ) is the smallest and T4 is the largest.
  • N stages - There are 2 main N stages. This shows if pancreatic cancer has spread to the lymph nodes (N1) or not (N0).
  • M stages - There are 2 M stages. This shows if the cancer has spread to distant body parts, like the liver or lungs (M1), or not (M0).

Number stages of cancer of the pancreas

Once the TNM categories have been decided, this information can be grouped together to give the stage a number from 1 to 4. Stage 1 is the earliest stage and stage 4 is the most advanced stage of pancreatic cancer.
 

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

 

 

Why cancers are staged

The stage of a cancer tells the doctor how far it has spread. The tests and scans you have when diagnosing your cancer give some information about the stage. It is important because treatment is often decided according to the stage of a cancer. Your doctor may not be able to tell you the exact stage of your cancer until after your surgery. There are different ways of staging cancers. The 2 main ways are the TNM system and number system. There is more about staging cancers in the cancers in general section.

 

TNM stages of pancreatic cancer

TNM stands for Tumour, Node, Metastasis. This system describes the size of a primary tumour (T), whether there are lymph nodes with cancer cells in them (N) and whether the cancer has spread to a different part of the body (M). There are 5 stages of tumour size in the current TNM classification

  • Tis (carcinoma in situ) is very early stage pancreatic cancer, which has not had a chance to spread. This is not at all common with this type of cancer.
  • T1 means the tumour is inside the pancreas and is 2cm or less in any direction

Diagram showing stage T1 cancer of the pancreas

  • T2 means the tumour is still within the pancreas but is more than 2cm across in any direction

Diagram showing stage T2 cancer of the pancreas

  • T3 means the cancer has started to grow into tissues around the pancreas. It has not grown into the nearby large blood vessels

Diagram showing stage T3 cancer of the pancreas

  • T4 means the cancer has grown further outside the pancreas, into the nearby large blood vessels

Diagram showing stage T4 cancer of the pancreas

N0 means there are no lymph nodes containing cancer. N1 means there are lymph nodes which contain cancer cells and so the cancer is more likely to have spread further than the pancreas itself. 

Diagram showing pancreatic cancer in the lymph nodes (N staging)

M0 means the cancer has not spread into distant organs such as the liver or lungs. M1 means the cancer has spread to other organs.

Diagram showing pancreatic cancer that has spread (M staging)

 

Number stages of pancreatic cancer

There are 4 stages in this system - stage 1 to 4.

Stage 1

Stage 1 means the cancer is completely inside the pancreas and has not spread to the lymph nodes. It is divided into

Stage 1A means the cancer is completely inside the pancreas and is smaller than 2 cm. There is no cancer in the lymph nodes or other areas of the body. In TNM staging, this is the same as T1, N0, M0.

Stage 1B means the cancer is completely inside the pancreas but is bigger than 2cm. There is no cancer in the lymph nodes or other areas of the body. In TNM staging, this is the same as T2, N0, M0.

Stage 2

Stage 2 is divided into 

Stage 2A means the cancer has started to grow into nearby tissues around the pancreas. It may be in the duodenum or the bile duct. But there is no cancer in the nearby large blood vessels or lymph nodes. This means that, although the cancer has been growing locally, there is a chance that it may not have spread through the blood or lymph systems. In TNM staging, this is the same as T3, N0, M0.

Stage 2B means the cancer can be any size and may have grown into the tissues surrounding the pancreas. Cancer is also found in the nearby lymph nodes, but not the large blood vessels. In TNM staging, this is the same as T1, 2 or 3, N1, M0.

Stage 3

The cancer is growing outside the pancreas, into the nearby large blood vessels. It may or may not have spread into the lymph nodes. It has not spread to other areas of the body. Your doctor may call this locally advanced cancer. In TNM staging, this is the same as T4, Any N, M0.

Stage 4

The cancer has spread to other areas of the body such as the liver or lungs. Your doctor may call this advanced cancer. In TNM staging, this is the same as Any T, Any N, M1.

Rate this page:
Submit rating

 

Rated 5 out of 5 based on 79 votes
Rate this page
Rate this page for no comments box
Please enter feedback to continue submitting
Send feedback
Question about cancer? Contact our information nurse team

No Error

Updated: 28 May 2014