Survival depends on many different factors. So no one can tell you exactly how long you will live. It depends on your:
- type and stage of cancer
- level of fitness
- previous treatment
These are general statistics based on large groups of patients. Remember, they can’t tell you what will happen in your individual case.
Survival by stage
Most pancreatic cancers are a type called adenocarcinoma. They are also called exocrine tumours.
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.
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 the cancer can't be removed by surgery:
- 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.
There are no UK-wide statistics for pancreatic cancer survival by stage. These statistics are from international studies and from one area of England: the Northern and Yorkshire Cancer Registry and Information Service (NYCRIS).
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. By the time someone has symptoms, goes to their doctor and is diagnosed, 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 (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.
Application of the pancreatic adenocarcinoma staging system to pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors
KY Bilimoria and others
Journal of the American College of Surgeons, 2007, Volume 205, Issue 4, Pages 558-563
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 terms 1 year survival and 5 year survival don't mean that you will only live for 1 or 5 years. They relate to the number of people who are still alive 1 year or 5 years after their diagnosis of cancer.
Some people live longer than 5 years.
For more in-depth information about survival and other statistics for pancreatic cancer, go to our Cancer Statistics section.