What are the stages of pancreatic cancer?

Johns Hopkins Medicine
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Staging is a method of describing pancreas cancer based on how far it has spread (metastasized). Pancreatic tumors may be staged based on the TNM (tumor, node, metastasis) system, or a numbered system. It is used to describe the size of a primary tumor (T), whether there are lymph nodes with cancer cells in them (N), and whether the cancer has spread (metastasized) to a different part of the body (M).

•    T values range from 1 to 4, with 1 being a small tumor and 4, a large one
•    N values range from 0 to 3, with 0 meaning no positive lymph nodes and 3 indicating many positive nodes (positive node means presence of cancer)
•    The M value is either 0 or 1, with 0 meaning the cancer has not spread (metastasized) and 1 meaning that it has spread

The following numerical stages also may be used for pancreatic cancer:

•    Stage 0 (Carcinoma in Situ) - Abnormal cells are found in the lining of the pancreas. The cells may become cancerous and spread into nearby normal tissue.
•    Stage I - Cancer is found in the pancreas only. Stage I is also divided into two subsets based on the size of the tumor. In Stage IA, the tumor is two centimeters or smaller. In Stage IB, the tumor is larger than two centimeters.
•    Stage II - The cancer may have spread to nearby tissue and organs or lymph nodes near the pancreas. Stage II is divided into Stage IIA and Stage IIB, based on where the cancer has spread. In Stage IIA, cancer has spread to nearby tissue and organs but not to the lymph nodes. In Stage IIB, the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes and may have also spread to nearby tissue and organs.
•    Stage III - The cancer has spread to the major blood vessels near the pancreas and may have spread to nearby lymph nodes.
•    Stage IV - The cancer may be of any size and have spread to distant organs, such as the liver, lung, and peritoneal cavity. It may also have spread to organs and tissues near the pancreas or to the lymph nodes.

Depending on the stage and other contributing medical factors, a treatment protocol will be developed to achieve the most successful outcome.

Stage 0 pancreatic cancer, also known as carcinoma in situ, is the earliest stage of the disease. In this stage, abnormal cells, which may or may not be cancerous, begin to form a tumor in the lining of the pancreas. In stage 1 pancreatic cancer, a cancerous tumor has formed in the pancreas but has not spread beyond the pancreas. In stage 2 pancreatic cancer, the tumor has spread beyond the pancreas. In stage 3 pancreatic cancer, the cancer that began in the pancreas has spread beyond the pancreas to major blood vessels in the area and may have spread to other parts of the body near the pancreas, including the lymph nodes. In stage 4 pancreatic cancer, the cancer that began in the pancreas has spread beyond the pancreas to other parts of the body far from the pancreas, possibly including the lymph nodes.

Continue Learning about Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic Cancer

Often asymptomatic in the beginning, pancreatic cancer is very difficult to diagnose and typically spreads rapidly to other parts of the body.Cancer occurs when abnormal cells form in the lining of the pancreas, an organ of the en...

docrine system that is responsible for making enzymes for digestion and for producing certain hormones such as insulin. Even though only 1 in 76 people develop this disease, it is the fourth deadliest type of cancer and is difficult to cure. No one knows what causes pancreatic cancer, and even the few known risk factors are not fully understood. Visit your doctor if you have unexplained weight loss, a loss of appetite, abdominal pain that radiates up your back, or a yellow tint to your eyes or skin.
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.