As the title would suggest this article is going to discuss the different stages of pancreatic cancer, but before we can talk about pancreatic cancer stages we have to talk about what pancreatic cancer is and why it is so important to understand. It is estimated that in the United States of America in 2012 that there will be approximately 43,920 new cases of pancreatic cancer and 37,390 deaths from this deadly form of cancer.
Pancreatic cancer, also known as exocrine cancer is defined as a disease in which malignant(cancerous) cells are found in the pancreas. This type of cancer is so deadly mainly because it is usually symptomless in the early stages of the disease. It is not until the cancer has progressed to the more advanced stages that symptoms begin to manifest, and at this point the chances of survival are diminished.
Pancreatic cancer stages
Pancreatic cancer is staged based on the size of the tumor in the pancreas, and by how much it has metastasized(spread). There are five stages by which pancreatic cancer is staged, from zero to four.
Pancreatic cancer stages – Stage 0
The zero stage with pancreatic cancer is when abnormal cells are found within the tissue lining the pancreas organ. At this stage there is no cancer, however the abnormal cells may become cancerous in the future. Pancreatic cancer stage 0 is also sometimes referred to as carcinoma in situ.
Pancreatic cancer stages – Stage 1 (Size approx 1-2cm)
- Stage 1 is when cancer has formed within the pancreas, and has not metastasized(spread). Stage 1 is divided into two sub stages referred to as stage 1A and stage 1 B.
- Stage 1A: The size of the pancreatic tumor is 2 centimeters or less.
- Stage 2B: The size is greater than 2 centimeters.
Pancreatic cancer stages – Stage 2 (size approx 2cm)
The second stage of pancreatic cancer is defined by the spread of the cancer to nearby tissues or organs, and in some cases spread to the lymphatic system. Similar to stage 1, stage 2 is also divided into 2 sub stages.
- Stage 2A: Cancer has metastasized to nearby organs and tissues, but not to the lymphatic system.
- Stage 2B: Cancer has metastasized to the lymphatic system and to nearby organs and tissues.
Pancreatic cancer stages – Stage 3 (size approx 4cm)
By the time the cancer has been staged as a stage 3 the cancer has metastasized to the blood vessels surrounding the pancreas, and possibly the lymphatic system.
Pancreatic cancer stages – Stage 4 (Size approx 5cm)
In this stage of the cancer the tumor could be any size. Also in this stage there is usually a great deal of spreading of the cancer to major organs such as the lungs and lymphatic system.
The above mentioned pancreatic cancer stages are just that stages, and within each stage there is room for interpretation. There needs to be room for interpretation due to the fact that each cancer is different and does not neatly fit into pre-determined boxes or stages. So just remember that the pancreatic cancer stages system is a guideline for doctors and that one doctor may see a stage 2 while another doctor may see that same tumor as a stage 1.