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Pancreatic Cancer Treatment (Patient) (cont.)

Stages of Pancreatic Cancer

Tests and procedures to stage pancreatic cancer are usually done at the same time as diagnosis.

There are three ways that cancer spreads in the body.

The three ways that cancer spreads in the body are:

  • Through tissue. Cancer invades the surrounding normal tissue.
  • Through the lymph system. Cancer invades the lymph system and travels through the lymph vessels to other places in the body.
  • Through the blood. Cancer invades the veins and capillaries and travels through the blood to other places in the body.

When cancer cells break away from the primary (original) tumor and travel through the lymph or blood to other places in the body, another (secondary) tumor may form. This process is called metastasis. The secondary (metastatic) tumor is the same type of cancer as the primary tumor. For example, if breast cancer spreads to the bones, the cancer cells in the bones are actually breast cancer cells. The disease is metastatic breast cancer, not bone cancer.

The following stages are used for pancreatic cancer:

Stage 0 (Carcinoma in Situ)

In stage 0, abnormal cells are found in the lining of the pancreas. These abnormal cells may become cancer and spread into nearby normal tissue. Stage 0 is also called carcinoma in situ.

Tumor size compared to everyday objects; shows various measurements of a tumor compared to a pea, peanut, walnut, and lime
Pea, peanut, walnut, and lime show tumor sizes.

Stage I

Stage I pancreatic cancer; drawing on the left shows that stage IA pancreatic cancer is smaller than 2 centimeters. The drawing on the right shows that stage IB pancreatic cancer is larger than 2 centimeters. An inset shows that a 2 centimeter tumor is about the size of a peanut. The duodenum is also shown.
Stage I pancreatic cancer. In stage IA, the tumor is 2 centimeters or smaller. In stage IB, the tumor is larger than 2 centimeters.

In stage I, cancer has formed and is found in the pancreas only. Stage I is divided into stage IA and stage IB, based on the size of the tumor.

  • Stage IA: The tumor is 2 centimeters or smaller.
  • Stage IB: The tumor is larger than 2 centimeters.

Stage II

In stage II, cancer may have spread to nearby tissue and organs, and may have spread to lymph nodes near the pancreas. Stage II is divided into stage IIA and stage IIB, based on where the cancer has spread.

  • Stage IIA: Cancer has spread to nearby tissue and organs but has not spread to nearby lymph nodes.
    Stage IIA pancreatic cancer; drawing shows cancer in the pancreas and duodenum. The bile duct and pancreatic duct are also shown.
    Stage IIA pancreatic cancer. Cancer has spread to nearby tissue and organs but has not spread to nearby lymph nodes.
  • Stage IIB: Cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes and may have spread to nearby tissue and organs.
    Stage IIB pancreatic cancer; drawing shows cancer in the pancreas and in nearby lymph nodes. Also shown are the bile duct, pancreatic duct, and duodenum.
    Stage IIB pancreatic cancer. Cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes and may have spread to nearby tissue and organs.

Stage III

Stage III pancreatic cancer; drawing shows cancer in the pancreas, common hepatic artery, and portal vein. Also shown are the celiac axis (trunk), bile duct, pancreatic duct, duodenum, and superior mesenteric artery.
Stage III pancreatic cancer. Cancer has spread to the major blood vessels near the pancreas. These include the superior mesenteric artery, celiac axis, common hepatic artery, and portal vein. Cancer may have spread to nearby lymph nodes.

In stage III, cancer has spread to the major blood vessels near the pancreas and may have spread to nearby lymph nodes.

Stage IV

Stage IV pancreatic cancer; drawing shows cancer has spread beyond the pancreas. Inset shows cancer spreading through the blood and lymph nodes to the lung, liver, peritoneal cavity, and other parts of the body.
Stage IV pancreatic cancer. Cancer may be any size and has spread to distant organs, such as the lung, liver, and peritoneal cavity (the space in the abdomen that contains the intestines, stomach, and liver). Cancer may also have spread to tissue and organs near the pancreas or to lymph nodes.

In stage IV, cancer may be of any size and has spread to distant organs, such as the liver, lung, and peritoneal cavity. It may have also spread to organs and tissues near the pancreas or to lymph nodes.

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eMedicineHealth Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http://cancer.gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER

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