Pancreatic cancer prognosis and survival

It is important to remember that pancreatic cancer is unique to every patient and it is not possible for anyone to tell you how long you will live with the disease.

Survival depends on your current health, any other conditions you have and your general level of fitness. It also depends on the stage of your cancer when it is diagnosed.

Overall survival for pancreatic cancer

The overall 1-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer is 26%, in the UK. This means that around 26 in 100 will have survived to one year and beyond.  

The 5-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer is 7.9%. This means that around 8 in 100 people will have survived for 5 years and beyond.   

10-year survival of the disease is 1%, meaning only around 1 in 100 people survive 10 years and beyond.  

Pancreatic cancer has the lowest 5-year survival rate of any of the 22 common cancers. However, it is encouraging that survival has more than doubled since Pancreatic Cancer Action began, 10 years ago.

Though increases in survival may seem small, we are beginning to see a slow but positive trend upwards after decades without improvement. 

Early stage diagnosis

If you are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at an early stage, this means that you have been diagnosed at stage one or two. In an early stage cancer, the tumour is small and hasn’t spread to other places in the body. You may be eligible for surgery to remove the cancer and for follow up treatments to stop it coming back.  

People with early stage pancreatic cancer have a 5-year survival of up to 30%. This means that around 30 people in 100 will have survived to 5 years and beyond.  

For people who do not live this long there are some possible explanations. Firstly, the cancer may have recurred, and a tumour grown again in the same part of the body. Secondly, cancer cells may have spread around the body before surgery but have been too small to be seen on scans. These may have grown into tumours later.  

At Pancreatic Cancer Action we know that early diagnosis is achievable and survival is possible. We envisage a day where everyone is diagnosed in the early stages of their disease and has the best chance for a longer, better quality of life.

Late stage diagnosis

If you are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at a late stage, you have been diagnosed at stage three or four. The tumour may be larger and spread into surrounding tissues, this is stage three pancreatic cancer.  

Stage three survival varies depending on the size of the tumour and how it is has spread. Patients with stage 3 pancreatic cancer may survive 6-11 months.   

If the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, this is stage four. Survival varies depending on where the cancer has spread and how large the tumour has grown.  

Patients with stage four pancreatic cancer may survive 2-6 months.  

There are many reasons why pancreatic cancer is diagnosed late, click here to find out more.