Staging is a natural and necessary tool in treating and managing cancer of all types, including pancreatic cancer. Understanding the staging process helps you and your doctor determine a customized treatment plan that works for your specific needs. Learn more about pancreatic cancer and its stages below.
What is Pancreatic Cancer?
Pancreatic cancer refers to any cancer that starts in the cells of the pancreas. The pancreas sits just behind the lower stomach. It secretes enzymes that help with digestion and absorbs nutrients, and it produces hormones, particularly insulin, that help to manage blood sugar levels.
What are the signs of pancreatic cancer? Pancreatic cancer symptoms can vary from each pancreatic cancer patient to patient and usually are not noticeable until the disease has advanced to later stages. Some of the most common pancreatic cancer symptoms and signs include:
- Yellowing of the skin and eyes (known as jaundice)
- Pain in the abdomen that radiates to your back
- Blood clots
- Light-colored stools
- Dark urine
- Blood clots
Pancreatic adenocarcinoma is the most common type of pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic adenocarcinoma starts in the exocrine cells, which form the exocrine glands and ducts that produce and release digestive enzymes.
There is not necessarily a straightforward answer to the question, “What is the one cause of pancreatic cancer?” Pancreatic cancer is primarily caused by genetic mutations in cancer patients, which can be hereditary or a result of exposure to certain environmental factors.
What are the Stages of Pancreatic Cancer?
Following a positive diagnosis of the disease, the doctor will proceed to the staging process. This is important for cancer patients as it determines if the primary tumor has become a metastatic tumor, meaning it has spread to other parts of the body, and, if so, the extent of that spread. This can then inform the types of pancreatic cancer treatment options that you receive.
Staging starts with a numbering system ranging from stage 0 to stage IV. The higher the number, the more advanced pancreatic cancer is and the farther that it has spread. Stage 0 is sometimes referred to as carcinoma in situ, meaning that the cells are precancerous in a limited area. However, in most pancreatic cancer cases it is often difficult to identify the beginning pancreatic cancer stage as the disease rarely presents itself until it has reached more advanced pancreatic cancer stages.
Along with the number system, staging for pancreatic cancer also uses the TNM system:
- T denotes cancers that are relegated to localized tumors.
- N refers to cancers that have spread to nearby lymph nodes.
- M refers to cancers that have metastasized (spread to distant organs or lymph nodes).
The stage combines the number and the TNM designation. Stage III T1 N2 M0, for example, refers to cancer that is confined to the pancreas with a primary tumor measuring no more than 0.8 inches across and spread to at least four nearby lymph nodes but without any metastasis to distant sites.
Other prognostic factors can also play a role in determining the stage and potential outlook. The pancreatic tumor grade determines the way that pancreatic tissue looks under a microscope.
- With grade 1, the cancer looks like normal pancreatic tissue.
- Grade 3 is a cancer that looks decidedly abnormal under the microscope.
- Grade 2 tumors look like something in between.
Lower-grade cancers tend to grow and spread at a slower rate than higher-grade cancers.
Resectable vs. Unresectable
While the above staging is important in providing a summary of the cancer’s spread, doctors will use a simpler staging system for pancreatic cancer treatment purposes. This system divides the pancreatic cancer into groups based on whether the cancer cells can be removed via surgery (resected).
Cancers that are relegated to just the pancreas and appear to be fully removable are considered resectable pancreatic cancer. However, some tumors may only appear resectable at first. Upon surgery, the doctor may notice that the pancreatic tumor may not be fully removable. Borderline resectable tumors have reached nearby blood vessels, but surgical removal may still be possible. An unresectable tumor is a form of advanced cancer that cannot be removed at all. This may be because it is a metastatic pancreatic cancer tumor that has grown into a major blood vessel(locally advanced) or spread to distant organs.
Later or final stages of pancreatic cancer can be harder to treat, so it’s important to get a proper diagnosis as soon as possible. In terms of what is the survival rate for pancreatic cancer, the sooner you receive pancreatic cancer treatment, the better the outcome. Common clinical oncology treatment options include targeted therapy, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.
Contact the Immunity Therapy Center About Your Pancreatic Cancer
Every single person at Immunity Therapy Center understands the serious nature of pancreatic cancer and is dedicated to providing you with the best possible pancreatic cancer treatment. We are proud to provide healthcare that’s both the highest possible quality and affordable. We provide you and every single other patient with high-quality, affordable cancer treatment that’s effective and compassionate. Every single time you visit our facility you’ll be greeted warmly and treated with dignity. Most importantly, you know that we are using every single resource available to us in our battle to treat your cancer.
Contact us and learn more about what options you have concerning pancreatic cancer. It’s an action that could save your life.
Written By: Dr. Pablo Orozco
Dr. Pablo Orozco is a Board Certified Medical Doctor from Universidad Autónoma de Baja California.
Dr. Orozco has been a treating physician at the Immunity Therapy Center for more than 3 years providing daily on site patient care. He works with patients on a daily basis and guides them through the treatment process. Dr. Orozco’s passion for Alternative Cancer Treatments along with his commitment to patient care is key to insure that our patients have the best experience and results possible.
At Immunity Therapy Center, our goal is to provide objective, updated, and research-based information on all health-related topics. This article is based on scientific research and/or other scientific articles. All information has been fact-checked and reviewed by Dr. Carlos Bautista, a Board Certified Medical Doctor at Immunity Therapy Center. All information published on the site must undergo an extensive review process to ensure accuracy. This article contains trusted sources with all references hyperlinked for the reader's visibility.