While there has been some progress in the treatment of pancreatic cancer over the past couple of decades, it’s still one of those cancers that are difficult to cure.

When looking at the life expectancy and prognosis of pancreatic cancer, we typically concentrate on the five-year survival rate, which basically refers to the percentage of individuals still alive once five years elapse after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

Why five years? Well, five years are used as a benchmark as it’s a great indicator that the disease has responded to treatment. These rates don’t only refer to persons who survive five years later, some people live well beyond the five years.

Here are the most recent statistics from the National Cancer Institute on pancreatic cancer survival rates:

  • Overall, pancreatic cancer’s five-year survival rate is 7.2 percent
  • For pancreatic cancers that haven’t spread past the pancreas (localized cancers), the survival rate is at 27.1 percent.
  • For those cancers that have affected other parts near the pancreas (regional cancers), the survival rate is at 10.7 percent
  • For those cancers that have spread further (metastatic or distant cancers), the survival rate is 2.4 percent.

Although these statistics give an outlook of the general population, they may not always consider the details of your specific case. This is because personal factors such as family history, age, and behaviour can considerably affect your prognosis.

Survival by stage

The survival rate may vary with each stage of this cancer. Typically, pancreatic cancer grows fast and may have a poor prognosis. The earlier it’s diagnosed and treated, the higher the chances of curing it.

If it’s diagnosed at an advanced stage, the tumor may be hard to remove through surgery, making it more difficult to treat.