Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer

Submitted by Nic on October 18, 2012

Pancreatic cancer, as the name suggest, is a cancer that originates in the pancreas. In stage 4 pancreatic cancer, the cancer has spread to distant locations in the body or has affected adjacent organs. The cancer could have affected the liver and lungs or the adjacent organs such as the stomach, spleen and bowel. The classification of patients with stage 4 pancreatic cancer is as follows:

  • Group A: While the cancer is confined to local areas, it has spread to nearby organs and blood vessels. Stage 4A pancreatic is also referred to as locally advanced or localized pancreatic cancer.
  • Group B: Cancer has spread to distant organs of the body, usually lungs. Stage 4B of pancreatic cancer is also known as metastatic pancreatic cancer.


The symptoms of stage 4 pancreatic cancer are dependent on the location of cancer, and therefore:

  • If the cancerous tumor interferes with the normal flow of bile juice then jaundice is a common symptom. Jaundice is a condition where the eyes and skin become yellow in color.
  • If the tumor is in contact with the nerves in the abdomen, then abdominal pain is a symptom. <
  • Similarly, when the cancer affects the digestive system, then the patient experiences weight loss, appetite loss and vomiting.


The treatment for both groups of patients have different goals. The goal of treatment for patients belonging to group A is to ease the severity of the condition. This type of treatment ensures that the patient lives for months or maybe years without exhibiting any major symptoms. For group B patients, treatment is aimed at controlling the symptoms of the cancer and also relieving the patient from the pain.

Treatment for stage 4 pancreatic cancer includes palliative surgery, chemotherapy, and administration of pain relieving drugs. The palliative surgeries that a surgeon performs include biliary bypass, endoscopic stent placement, and gastric bypass.

Life expectancy

The life expectancy for stage 4 pancreatic cancer is very low and is worst among all forms of cancers. The median survival rate for patients with stage 4 pancreatic cancer is about 3 to 5 months. The reason for the low life expectancy for stage 4 pancreatic cancer is that the cancer is not confined only to the pancreas. Prognosis of stage 4 pancreatic cancer is thus not very good. Unfortunately, the cancer does not show many symptoms in its early stages and is only diagnosed in advanced stages.


  • http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/pancreatic/Patient
  • http://www.cancer.gov/ncicancerbulletin/051711/page2
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