Stage IV pancreatic cancer is characterized by how much it spreads throughout the body, affecting the liver, lungs, stomach, spleen and bowels, according to Texas Oncology. Stage IV pancreatic cancer is sometimes only diagnosed after surgery is completed.
Texas Oncology splits Stage IV pancreatic cancer into two types: localized and metastatic. Localized pancreatic cancer affects the adjacent organs, such as the stomach, spleen and bowels, as well as nearby blood vessels. Metastatic pancreatic cancer spreads to more distant organs, usually, but not always, the liver.
The American Cancer Society reports a very low rate of five-year survival among those diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer, roughly 1 percent. The low survival rate is partially attributed to the difficulty of operating and removing the affected organs, with treatment focused on reducing and managing pain and other symptoms of pancreatic cancer. Nonsurgical treatment options include radiation, chemotherapy and biological therapy, with many doctors recommending a combination of methods.
Patients with pancreatic cancer do not normally notice symptoms until the cancer has grown outside the pancreas, explains WebMD. The symptoms vary based on the cancer's location. Weight loss, jaundice, darkened urine and lightened stool, nausea and abdominal pain indicate the cancer is in the head of the pancreas, while back pain, stomach pains and weight loss point to cancer in the back or tail of the pancreas.