Pancreatic cancer

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Prognosis and survival for pancreatic cancer

If you have pancreatic cancer, you may have questions about your prognosis. A prognosis is the doctor’s best estimate of how cancer will affect someone and how it will respond to treatment. Prognosis and survival depend on many factors. Only a doctor familiar with your medical history, the type and stage and other features of the cancer, the treatments chosen and the response to treatment can put all of this information together with survival statistics to arrive at a prognosis.

A prognostic factor is an aspect of the cancer or a characteristic of the person (such as whether they smoke) that the doctor will consider when making a prognosis. A predictive factor influences how a cancer will respond to a certain treatment. Prognostic and predictive factors are often discussed together. They both play a part in deciding on a treatment plan and a prognosis.

The following are prognostic factors for pancreatic cancer.

Resectability

Resectability is whether or not the tumour can be completely removed with surgery. It is one of the most important prognostic factors for pancreatic cancer. The prognosis is more favourable for a tumour that can be completely removed with surgery (called resectable).

Stage

Another important prognostic factor for pancreatic cancer is the stage, which describes where cancer is in the body. As a general rule, the prognosis is more favourable if the cancer is found early and is a lower stage.

Performance status

Performance status is the measure of how well a person can do ordinary tasks and carry out daily activities. It is often measured with the Karnofsky Performance Status scale. People with a high performance status (Karnofsky performance score higher than 70) before surgery have a better prognosis than those with a lower performance status.

Grade

Pancreatic cancers that are lower grade have a better prognosis than those that are higher grade.

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Making progress in the cancer fight

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The 5-year cancer survival rate has increased from 25% in the 1940s to 60% today.

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