Staging for Pancreatic Cancer

Staging is a method of determining the progress of cancer in a patient. Once doctors know how far along the cancer is, they can decide on the best course of treatment. In the staging process, the tumor characteristics and the extent to which the cancer has spread to other parts of the body is evaluated.

There are a number of aspects to staging. A simplified approach puts patients into three groups, or stages, based on how far the cancer has advanced:

Stage I pancreatic cancer: The cancer can be treated by surgically removing part of the pancreas. This is also known as the resectable stage.

Stage II pancreatic cancer: The cancer has advanced past the point of being resectable but is still confined to the pancreas itself.

Stage III pancreatic cancer: The tumor has spread to other organs.

Other staging approaches evaluate the tumor and its behavior in greater detail:

Pancreatic Tumor Staging

TX: Doctors cannot determine if patient has a tumor.

T0: Patient does not have a tumor.

T1: Tumor is in the pancreas only.

  • T1A: Tumor is no larger than 2 centimeters.
  • T1B: Tumor is larger than 2 centimeters.

T2: Tumor has spread to organs immediately adjacent to pancreas, such as the bile duct or the duodenum (the connection between the stomach and small intestine).

T3: Tumor has spread to nearby organs such as the colon (large intestine), stomach, or spleen.

Pancreatic Cancer Staging: Spread to the Lymphatic System:

NX: Doctors cannot determine if cancer extends to nearby lymph nodes.

N0: Cancer has not extended to nearby lymph nodes.

N1: Cancer has extended to nearby lymph nodes.

Pancreatic Cancer Metastasis

The lymphatic system can transport cancer cells to distant parts of the body, where they can grow into new tumors. This is the process of metastasis. Another aspect of staging classifies cancers based on the extent to which they have metastisized.

MX: Doctors cannot determine if metastasis has taken place.

M0: Metastasis has not taken place.

M1: Metastasis has taken place.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 14 Aug 1999

Last Modified: 29 Sep 2015