Q:

Does the prognosis for a pancreatic cancer patient decline if the cancer has spread?

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Quick Answer

If pancreatic cancer has spread, the patient’s prognosis turns more negative, the National Cancer Institute reports. The two main factors that determine pancreatic cancer prognosis are whether the tumor is localized and can be treated with surgical resection, and whether it has reached the lymph nodes or other areas.

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Full Answer

Patients with cancer that is localized to the pancreas have the highest likelihood of being cured, NCI explains. Patients with a localized tumor receive the highest benefit from resection, which is the most widely used form of treatment. A patient with a cancer of 2 cm or less that is confined to the pancreas and undergoes resection has an actuarial survival rate of 18 to 24 percent over a five-year period. If the cancer is recurrent or metastatic, resection is not likely to yield benefit.

Pancreatic cancer symptoms may be treated with certain palliative measures, NCI notes. Helpful measures include relieving gastric outlet obstruction, managing pain, biliary decompression and appropriate psychological care.

Diagnosing pancreatic cancer is problematic, NCI cautions. This is because the disease shows no early symptoms, while signs that eventually appear are similar to those of other conditions affecting the pancreas. In addition, imaging tests rarely capture data successfully, as the pancreas is blocked by other organs.

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