While pancreatic cancer survival rates have been improving from decade to decade, the disease is still considered largely incurable. The Hirshberg Foundation is actively working to improve these statistics. We are here to support all patients and families through their cancer journey.
According to the American Cancer Society, for all stages of pancreatic cancer combined, the five-year rate is 12%. The 5-year relative survival for localized pancreatic cancer is 44%. Fewer than 20% of patients’ tumors are confined to the pancreas. About 80% of patients are diagnosed after the disease has reached an advanced stage, making the disease more difficult to treat. Approximately 15% to 20% of pancreatic tumors are resectable; if found before metastasis, these tumors tend to show better patient survival rates.
Tumor size does appear to impact survival rates. The larger the tumor, the less likely it is to be cured by resection. However, even large tumors may be removed and a number of patients with tumors greater than 4-5 cm appear to have been cured by surgery. There is increasing evidence that the best pancreatic cancer outcomes are achieved at major medical centers with extensive experience — those that perform more than 20 Whipple procedures annually.
In patients where a cure is not possible, progression of the disease may be accompanied by progressive weakness, weight loss, and pain. Effective techniques for pain management are widely available today and used by physicians experienced in the care of pancreatic cancer patients. The techniques include nerve blocks and various drugs that can be taken by mouth or injection. There are also a variety of effective techniques available to treat bile duct obstruction which may produce jaundice and stomach obstruction caused by growth of the tumor. Both surgical and non-surgical techniques may be effective.