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Pancreatic cancer

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Survival statistics for pancreatic cancer

Survival statistics for pancreatic cancer are very general estimates and must be interpreted very carefully. Because these statistics are based on the experience of groups of people, they cannot be used to predict a particular person’s chances of survival.

There are many different ways to measure and report cancer survival statistics. Your doctor can explain the statistics for pancreatic cancer and what they mean to you.

Relative survival

Relative survival looks at how likely people with cancer are to survive after their diagnosis compared to people in the general population who do not have cancer, but who share similar characteristics (such as age and sex).

In Canada, a 5-year relative survival statistic is reported for pancreatic cancer. The 5-year relative survival for pancreatic cancer is 8%. This means that, on average, people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer are 8% as likely to live 5 years after their diagnosis as people in the general population.

Survival by stage

Survival varies with each stage of pancreatic cancer. The following factors can also affect survival for pancreatic cancer.

  • Pancreatic cancer is aggressive and overall has a poor prognosis.
  • Generally, the earlier pancreatic cancer is diagnosed and treated, the better the outcome.
  • Often pancreatic cancer is not found until it is at an advanced stage, where the tumour has spread or is not resectable.
  • Pancreatic cancer often recurs even after it is completely removed with surgery (resected) and then treated with chemotherapy (called adjuvant chemotherapy).

There are no specific Canadian statistics available for the different stages of pancreatic cancer. The following information comes from a variety of sources and includes statistics from other countries.

Observed survival is the percentage of people with a particular cancer who are alive for a specified period of time after their diagnosis. The 5-year observed survival for pancreatic cancer that is resectable (can be completely removed with surgery) is 15%–20%. This means that 15%–20% of people diagnosed with resectable pancreatic cancer are expected to be alive 5 years after diagnosis. The survival rate is often used when talking about a person’s prognosis. However, observed survival does not consider the cause of death, so people could have died from cancer or from other causes.

Questions about survival

Talk to your doctor about your prognosis. Prognosis depends on many factors, including:

  • your medical history
  • type of cancer
  • stage
  • characteristics of the cancer
  • treatments chosen
  • response to treatment

Only a doctor familiar with these factors can put all of this information together with survival statistics to arrive at a prognosis.


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