What is pancreatic cancer?
Find out more about the pancreas and pancreatic cancer.
Being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer can feel overwhelming.
You have probably got lots of questions and worries, and it can be hard to take everything in. This section gives you key information about pancreatic cancer and your diagnosis.
If you or a loved one have just been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, our tailored emails can help you get the information and support you need.
You may have been told whether or not you can have surgery to remove the cancer. Or your doctor may tell you the stage of your cancer. This explains how big the cancer is and if it has spread. Your doctor will explain what this means and how it affects your treatment options. Some doctors may focus on whether you can have surgery and don’t tell you the stage. If you haven’t been told the stage but would like to know this, ask your doctor.
Your test results should be sent to your GP, and you may be sent a copy of the letter. This might include the stage of your cancer. If there’s anything in the letter that’s not clear, ask your GP or medical team to explain it. Our specialist nurses can also help explain things.
If you have been diagnosed with early or localised pancreatic cancer you may be able to have surgery to remove the cancer.
If the cancer has spread outside your pancreas, surgery may not be possible. This is called inoperable cancer. You may have been diagnosed with locally advanced or advanced pancreatic cancer.
The cancer is contained inside your pancreas. This is early, localised pancreatic cancer. This is also called operable or resectable cancer because surgery may be possible.
The cancer may have grown larger. It may have spread to a small number of lymph nodes near the pancreas. You might be able to have surgery to remove the cancer, but this depends on how far it has spread.
The cancer has spread outside your pancreas. This is usually locally advanced cancer. But it may occasionally be borderline resectable cancer, which means that the cancer that has grown very close to major blood vessels near the pancreas.
The cancer has spread further to other parts of your body. This is advanced or metastatic cancer. You may be able to have chemotherapy to slow down the growth of the cancer, and treatment to help manage any symptoms.
Published November 2022
To be reviewed November 2025