Pancreatic cancer natural history, complications and prognosis

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]; Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Aravind Reddy Kothagadi M.B.B.S[2] Sudarshana Datta, MD [3]


Patients with pancreatic cancer present with symptoms such as jaundice, light-colored stools, dark urine, and epigastric pain in the sixth decade of life. If left untreated, patients with pancreatic cancer may progress to develop exocrine pancreatic insufficiency arising from pancreatic duct obstruction leading to malabsorption, malnutrition and cachexia. Common complications of pancreatic cancer include intractable pain and obstructive jaundice that develop as a result of surgical intervention. Depending on the extent of the tumor at the time of diagnosis, the prognosis is generally regarded as poor, with complete remission being extremely rare.

Natural History

The natural history of pancreatic cancer is as follows:[1][2][3]


Common complications of pancreatic cancer may arise as a result of the disease or therapy:[4][5][6][7][8][9][10]


Staging and TNM (tumour, lymph node, metastasis) classification related to incidence, treatment, and prognosis:[12]

Staging and TNM Classification related to Incidence, Treatment, and Prognosis
Stage TNM Classification Clinical Classification Incidence at diagnosis (%) 5-year survival rate (%)
0 Tis, N0, M0 Resectable 7.5 15
IA T1, N0, M0 14
IB T2, N0, M0 12
IIA T3, N0, M0 7
IIB T1-3, N1, M0 Locally advanced 29.3 5
III T4, any N, M0 3
IV Any T, any N, M1 Metastatic 47.2 1

Five year survival rate


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  2. Sohal DP, Mangu PB, Khorana AA, Shah MA, Philip PA, O'Reilly EM, Uronis HE, Ramanathan RK, Crane CH, Engebretson A, Ruggiero JT, Copur MS, Lau M, Urba S, Laheru D (2016). "Metastatic Pancreatic Cancer: American Society of Clinical Oncology Clinical Practice Guideline". J. Clin. Oncol. 34 (23): 2784–96. doi:10.1200/JCO.2016.67.1412. PMC 5019760. PMID 27247222.
  3. Frič P, Škrha J, Šedo A, Bušek P, Kmochová K, Laclav M, Solař S, Bunganič B, Zavoral M (2016). "Early pancreatic carcinogenesis - risk factors, early symptoms, and the impact of antidiabetic drugs". Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 28 (7): e19–25. doi:10.1097/MEG.0000000000000646. PMID 27120389.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Koulouris AI, Banim P, Hart AR (2017). "Pain in Patients with Pancreatic Cancer: Prevalence, Mechanisms, Management and Future Developments". Dig. Dis. Sci. 62 (4): 861–870. doi:10.1007/s10620-017-4488-z. PMID 28229252.
  5. Ramsey ML, Conwell DL, Hart PA (2017). "Complications of Chronic Pancreatitis". Dig. Dis. Sci. 62 (7): 1745–1750. doi:10.1007/s10620-017-4518-x. PMC 5667546. PMID 28281169.
  6. Vujasinovic M, Valente R, Del Chiaro M, Permert J, Löhr JM (2017). "Pancreatic Exocrine Insufficiency in Pancreatic Cancer". Nutrients. 9 (3). doi:10.3390/nu9030183. PMC 5372846. PMID 28241470.
  7. Poruk KE, Wolfgang CL (2016). "Palliative Management of Unresectable Pancreas Cancer". Surg. Oncol. Clin. N. Am. 25 (2): 327–37. doi:10.1016/j.soc.2015.11.005. PMID 27013367.
  8. Kapoor VK (2016). "Complications of pancreato-duodenectomy". Rozhl Chir. 95 (2): 53–9. PMID 27008166.
  9. Hucl T (2016). "[Malignant biliary obstruction]". Cas. Lek. Cesk. (in Czech). 155 (1): 30–7. PMID 26898789.
  10. Dong J, Cong L, Zhang TP, Zhao YP (2016). "Pancreatic metastasis of renal cell carcinoma". HBPD INT. 15 (1): 30–8. PMID 26818541.
  11. Dobosz Ł, Kaczor M, Stefaniak TJ (2016). "Pain in pancreatic cancer: review of medical and surgical remedies". ANZ J Surg. 86 (10): 756–761. doi:10.1111/ans.13609. PMID 27111447.
  12. Bond-Smith G, Banga N, Hammond TM, Imber CJ (2012). "Pancreatic adenocarcinoma". BMJ. 344: e2476. doi:10.1136/bmj.e2476. PMID 22592847.
  13. "Pancreatic Cancer Survival Rates, by Stage".
  14. Carrato, A.; Falcone, A.; Ducreux, M.; Valle, J. W.; Parnaby, A.; Djazouli, K.; Alnwick-Allu, K.; Hutchings, A.; Palaska, C.; Parthenaki, I. (2015). "A Systematic Review of the Burden of Pancreatic Cancer in Europe: Real-World Impact on Survival, Quality of Life and Costs". Journal of Gastrointestinal Cancer. 46 (3): 201–211. doi:10.1007/s12029-015-9724-1. ISSN 1941-6628.

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