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Pancreatic Cancer (cont.)

Pancreatic Cancer Follow-up

Because pancreatic cancer has a risk of returning after surgical or adjuvant medical therapy, continuous vigilant follow-up with the doctor is important. On a routine schedule recommended by the doctor, the following are performed:

  • Physical exams
  • Blood studies, including CA 19-9
  • Periodic imaging studies, usually CT scans at 6-month intervals or earlier if needed to assess new symptoms

Pancreatic Cancer Prevention and Prognosis

No known preventative measure exists for pancreatic cancer; however, minimizing certain risk factors is important. Risk factors that can be controlled include limiting smoking and excessive alcohol intake.

Pancreatic Cancer Prognosis

Despite recent advances in the surgical and medical treatment of pancreatic cancer, the prognosis associated with this disease is still relatively poor.

For people who have pancreatic cancers completely removed by surgery, the probability of being alive in 5 years is 20% to 30%. If lymph nodes were found to contain cancer at the time of surgery, then the probability of being alive in 5 years decreases to 10%.

The addition of chemotherapy after surgical removal of the pancreatic cancer is likely to increase this probability of being alive in 5 years, but only by about 10%.

For people who have unresectable locally advanced pancreatic cancer, surviving beyond 3 years is rare. For those with metastatic pancreatic cancer who have symptoms of weight loss or pain, the chance of surviving 1 year is less than 20% for those undergoing chemotherapy and less than 5% for those who choose not to receive chemotherapy.

These statistics underscore the importance of clinical trials attempting to discover more effective therapies for this disease. People with pancreatic cancers are encouraged to ask their doctor about the possibility of participating in a clinical trial that is well-suited for them.

Support Groups and Counseling

Being diagnosed with cancer is a physically and emotionally trying experience. Many avenues for support exist within the local community and beyond, both for the patient and for the patient's family and friends. The American Cancer Society has information on many local support groups. In addition, social workers, counselors, psychiatrists, and clergy can also be helpful in providing information and companionship through difficult times caused by the cancer.

Medically reviewed by Jay B. Zatzkin, MD; American Board of Internal Medicine with subspecialty in Medical Oncology


Bailey, P., et al. "Genomic analyses identify molecular subtypes of pancreatic cancer." Nature. 24 Feb. 2016.

Dragovich, Tomislav, et al. "Pancreatic Cancer." Medscape. 20 Feb. 2013.

Mulcahy, Nick. "'Incredibly Promising' Adjuvant Agent for Pancreatic Cancer. Only for Asians?" Medscape News. 24 Jan. 2013.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/17/2017
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