Different stages of cancer signify how far the tumor has spread and it helps doctors classify the patient for clinical trials. There are 4 stages of pancreatic cancer, however, it is difficult to tell at what stage the patient is without a major surgical procedure. However, given the dangerous nature of the surgery, doctors often use CT scans and ultrasounds to determine if the cancer is resectable i.e. if it can be removed by surgery. If the scan indicates that it can, then the patient undergoes surgery.

If the cancer is non-resectable, then it could be locally advanced i.e., the tumor has spread to major blood vessels and can no longer be safely removed surgically. It could also be metastatic i.e., the tumor has spread to organs other than the pancreas and therefore, cannot be removed through surgery. There are some clinical trials being used to combat locally advanced and metastatic pancreatic cancer; find out more about clinical trials at DM Clinical Research.

Here are the different stages of pancreatic cancer:

Stage 0: The cancer is restricted to the topmost layers of cells in the pancreas and cannot be seen by the naked eye or through imaging tests. There is little to no spread at this stage.

Stage I: At this stage, the cancer is limited to the pancreas and is less than 2 cm in size (stage IA) or between 2-4 cm (stage IB).

Stage II: The tumor has spread locally and has grown to over 4 cm. The spread is limited to the pancreas and the areas surrounding it.

Stage III:  cancer has spread into major blood vessels and nerves close to the pancreas but not to distant organs.

Stage IV: The spread has reached distant organs.

As with all serious medical conditions, the earlier you diagnose pancreatic cancer, the more promising the prognosis. Common symptoms include jaundice, abdominal or back pain, nausea, weight loss, blood clots, and diabetes.