Survival for pancreatic cancer

Pancreatic cancer is often diagnosed at an advanced stage. Your outlook (prognosis) 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.

These are general statistics based on large groups of people. 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

There are different types of pancreatic cancer. Most pancreatic cancers are the exocrine type. This means that they start in cells that produce pancreatic digestive juices. 

There are no UK wide statistics available for exocrine pancreatic cancer survival by stage. 

The statistics below come from America. They come from the National Cancer Institute's SEER programme. They are for people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer between 2011 and 2017.

Please be aware that these figures might not be a true picture of survival in the UK. This is due to differences in American health care systems, data collection and the population. The statistics do not take into account what treatment you have. Your outlook might be better if you have other treatments such as chemotherapy.

The American statistics are split into 3 stage groups – localised, regional and distant cancers. In the UK, your doctor might not use these terms. Instead, they might describe your cancer as a number stage (stage 1 to 4). The following descriptions are a guide to help you understand whether your cancer is localised, regional or distant. This isn’t always straight forward and will depend on your individual situation. Talk to your specialist if you are unsure which group you are in.

  • Localised cancer means your cancer has not spread beyond the pancreas
  • Regional cancer means your cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes
  • Distant cancer means your cancer has spread to another part of your body

Localised
More than 40 out of 100 people (more than 40%) survive their cancer for 5 years or more after diagnosis. 

Regional 
Around 15 out of 100 people (around 15%) survive their cancer for 5 years or more after diagnosis.

Distant
Almost 5 out of 100 people (almost 5%) survive their cancer for 5 years or more after diagnosis.

Survival for all stages of pancreatic cancer

There are no UK-wide statistics available for pancreatic cancer. Generally for adults with pancreatic cancer in England:

  • around 25 in every 100 (around 25%) survive their cancer for 1 year or more after they are diagnosed
  • more than 5 out of every 100 (more than 5%) survive their cancer for 5 years or more 
  • it is estimated that only 5 out of every 100 (5%) 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. The cancer is very often quite advanced.

Only around 10 in 100 people (around 10%) can have surgery to remove pancreatic cancer, which gives the best chance of cure.

Survival for pancreatic endocrine tumours

Pancreatic endocrine tumours are an uncommon type of pancreatic cancer. More recently doctors have been calling them neuroendocrine neoplasms (NENs). This is an umbrella term for this group of disorders. Then they are called either neuroendocrine tumours (NETs) or neuroendocrine carcinomas (NECs). This depends on how slow or fast growing the cells are.

They generally have a better outlook than adenocarcinoma of the pancreas. 

1 year survival

The information below is for 1 year overall survival for pancreatic neuroendocrine neoplasms (NENs) in the UK.

Around 80 in 100 people (around 80%) survive for 1 year or more.

5 year survival

There are no UK-wide 5 year survival statistics available for pancreatic NENs. The statistics below are from a European study. Please be aware that these figures may not be a true picture of survival in the UK. This is due to differences in health care systems, data collection and the population,

Around 40 out of 100 people (around 40%) survive their cancer for 5 years or more after diagnosis.

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. This is because the fitter you are, the better you may be able to cope with your cancer and treatment.

About these statistics

The terms 1 year survival and 5 year survival don't mean that you will only live for 1 or 5 years.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) and researchers collect information. They watch what happens to people with cancer in the years after their diagnosis. 5 years is a common time point to measure survival. But some people live much longer than this.

5 year survival is the number of people who have not died from their cancer within 5 years after diagnosis.

More statistics

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

Last reviewed: 
11 Aug 2021
Next review due: 
13 Aug 2024
  • Cancer survival by stage at diagnosis for England, 2019
    Office for National Statistics

  • Pancreatic cancer: yesterday, today and tomorrow
    D Ansari and others
    Future Oncol 2016 Aug; Volume 12. issue 16, pages 1929-46

  • Cancer Stat Facts: pancreatic cancer
    Surveillance Research Program, National Cancer Institute
    Accessed July 2021

  • Rare neuroendocrine tumours: Results of the surveillance of rare cancers in Europe project
    J Maartaen Van de Zwan and others
    European Journal of Cancer Volume 49, Issue 11 July 2013, Pages 2565-2578

  • Impact of neuroendocrine morphology on cancer outcomes and stage at diagnosis: a UK nationwide cohort study 2013–2015
    T Genus and others
    British Journal of Cancer (2019) Volume 121, pages 966–972