According to the National Cancer Institute, stage four pancreatic cancer is when the cancer has spread from the pancreas to organs such as the lungs, liver and peritoneal cavity. The cancer may also have spread to the tissues and the lymph nodes. According to the National Cancer Institute, some of the risk factors of pancreatic cancer include smoking, diabetes and family history.
The National Cancer Institute explains that often the early stages of pancreatic cancer do not exhibit any symptoms. When a person does feel symptoms they include pain in the upper part of the stomach, dark urine, jaundice and vomiting. Often times these symptoms are only felt once the cancer has grown and is in the later stages. In order to diagnosis pancreatic cancer, doctors often use a CT scan, MRI, ultrasound or needle biopsy. The course of treatment that a doctor chooses to treat pancreatic cancer depends on if the cancer has spread, where the tumor is in the pancreas, age and overall health. If the cancer has not spread, doctors may choose to operate and remove the tumor. However if the cancer has spread, treatments may be limited to radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy and chemoradiation therapy. In 2011, according to the National Cancer Institute, it was estimated 43,538 people were living with pancreatic cancer in the United States.