About Pancreatic Cancer


The most important factor in choosing treatment options and predicting how well a patient will respond to treatment is "staging," or determining the extent or stage of pancreatic disease. The primary system that doctors use to describe the various stages of pancreatic cancer is the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) TNM system, which contains three essential pieces of information:

  • T describes the primary tumor size, measured in centimeters, noting whether the disease has spread within the organ or to nearby organs.
  • N denotes its spread to nearby lymph nodes.
  • M indicates the spread to other organs, often the liver, lungs, and peritoneum (the space surrounding the digestive organs).

Numbers (0-4 for severity) or additional letters (such as X, for "cannot be assessed") provide more detail on disease. The stages for pancreatic cancer include:

·        Stage 0: Potentially precancerous cells are found in the lining of the pancreas.

·        Stage 1: Cancer has developed but is contained in the pancreas.

·        Stage II: Cancer may have spread to nearby tissue, organs or the lymph nodes.

·        Stage III: Cancer has spread to the major blood vessels near the pancreas and perhaps to the lymph nodes.

·        Stage IV: Cancer has spread to the distant organs and possibly to nearby organs or the lymph nodes.

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