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.
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
More than 40 out of 100 people (more than 40%) survive their cancer for 5 years or more after diagnosis.
Around 15 out of 100 people (around 15%) survive their cancer for 5 years or more after diagnosis.
Almost 5 out of 100 people (almost 5%) survive their cancer for 5 years or more after diagnosis.
Cancer Stat Facts: pancreatic cancer
Surveillance Research Program, National Cancer Institute
Accessed July 2021
These statistics are for relative survival. Relative survival takes into account that some people will die of causes other than cancer. The statistics are from America. They calculate relative survival using the general survival of the US population. This might not be a true picture of general survival in the UK population.
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.
Office for National Statistics, Cancer survival by stage at diagnosis for England, 2019
These statistics are for net survival. Net survival estimates the number of people who survive their cancer rather than calculating the number of people diagnosed with cancer who are still alive. In other words, it is the survival of cancer patients after taking into account that some people would have died from other causes if they had not had cancer.
You can read more about these statistics in the Cancer Statistics section.
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.
1 year survival
This 1 year survival rate comes from a study done by Public Health England. The study looked at 1,415 people diagnosed with a pancreatic NEN in England between 2013 and 2015.
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
5 year survival
These statistics are from a European study which included 1635 people diagnosed with pancreatic NENs. The patients came from different European countries (including the UK) and were diagnosed between 1995 and 2002. The 5 year relative survival statistics are for people diagnosed between 2000 and 2002.
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
These 5 year survival statistics 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.
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.
For more in-depth information about survival and other statistics for pancreatic cancer, go to our Cancer Statistics section.