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What is the difference between all the stages of pancreatic cancer?

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Quick Answer

Doctors measure the overall stage of pancreatic cancer, from 0 to IV, by first assigning a TMN rating, according to the American Cancer Society. The T categories describe the size of the tumor, N characterizes the spread of the cancer to surrounding lymph nodes, and M determines if the cancer has spread to any other organs in the body.

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Full Answer

Stage 0 pancreatic cancer has Tis, N0 and M0 ratings, reports the American Cancer Society. Tis means that the tumor is contained to the top layer of the pancreas, N0 means that the cancer did not spread to any lymph nodes near the pancreas, and M0 means that the cancer did not metastasize to other parts of the body. Stage IA possess T1 and N0 ratings, while Stage IB posses T2 and N0 ratings. A T1 or T2 rating means that the tumor is contained within the pancreas, but a T2 tumor is bigger than a T1 tumor.

Stage IIA has T3 and N0 ratings, which means that the pancreatic tumor has spread to surrounding tissues, according to the American Cancer Society. A Stage IIB tumor could posses a T1 to T3 rating, and it is also N1, meaning that the cancer spread to the lymph nodes. Stage III has a T4 rating, meaning that the cancer has spread to blood vessels or nerves near the pancreas, but the cancer may or may not have spread to the surrounding lymph nodes.

Stage IV pancreatic cancer has an M1 rating and any T and N ratings, states the American Cancer Society. M1 means that the cancer has spread to other organs of the body, such as the liver. Stage IV pancreatic cancer is the only stage with an M1 rating.

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