Prognosis if you can have surgery

Some people want to know whether their cancer can be cured, or how long they have left to live. This is called their prognosis, outlook, or life expectancy. This page explains prognosis if you have cancer that can be removed with surgery (operable cancer).

The prognosis will be different for each person, and depends on several things, including whether the cancer has spread, how far it has spread, and the treatments you can have.

Surgery is the most effective treatment for pancreatic cancer. If it is an option for you, it may help you to live longer. After surgery, you may be offered chemotherapy to try to reduce the chances of the cancer coming back. You will have check-ups to check for any signs that the cancer has come back. If it does come back, you may be offered further treatment with chemotherapy.

You may not want to know your prognosis. Everyone is different, and it is up to you whether you find out about your prognosis. But if you do want to know, speak to your doctor. They should be able to give you an idea of what to expect. There is a lot of information about pancreatic cancer online, and not all of it is accurate. So it’s important to speak to your doctor about your own situation.

Questions to ask your doctor or nurse


  • How successful is surgery likely to be?
  • For what reasons could the surgery be unsuccessful?
  • If the cancer comes back, what other treatment can I have?
  • What is my prognosis?
  • How accurate is this?
  • Can you speak to my family about my future if I or they want you to?
  • If I don’t want to know my prognosis but my family do, can you speak to them in confidence?
  • Is there anything I can do to help me live longer?

Survival rates for early pancreatic cancer

Some people want to know about survival rates for pancreatic cancer. Survival rates are averages based large groups of people with pancreatic cancer. They can’t tell you what will happen to you. But if you do want to know this, you can click the link below.

You may find these statistics frightening or upsetting, so think carefully before reading this information. You should also speak to your doctor about your own situation.

You can speak to our specialist nurses on our free Support Line with any questions about pancreatic cancer, and for emotional support.

What are the survival rates for early pancreatic cancer?


These survival rates are general statistics, based on large groups of people. They can’t tell you what will happen in your situation, so speak to your doctor if you want to know more about your prognosis.

These statistics are for pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, which is the most common type of pancreatic cancer. There is another type of pancreatic cancer called pancreatic neuroendocrine tumour (PancNET). If you have been diagnosed with PancNET, speak to your doctor about your prognosis.

What do one year and five year survival mean?

The terms “one year survival” and “five year survival” mean the proportion of people who are still alive one year and five years after their cancer diagnosis. It doesn’t mean that you will only live for one year or five years.

What are the survival rates for early pancreatic cancer?

The one year survival rate for stages 1 and 2 pancreatic cancer (early pancreatic cancer) in England is 49%. This means 49 out of 100 people are still alive after one year. Read about stage 1 and stage 2 cancer.

For people who have surgery to remove the cancer, the one year survival rate is 73% and the five-year survival rate is 20%. Remember that these are averages, and can’t tell you what will happen in your situation.

Five year survival for all pancreatic cancers in the UK is 7%.

The survival statistics are low for pancreatic cancer compared to other cancers. This is partly because pancreatic cancer is hard to diagnose. Many people are diagnosed late, when the cancer has spread and surgery is not possible. Sometimes for people who do have surgery, there may be cancer cells that have spread outside the pancreas, and the cancer comes back. This is one reason why you may have chemotherapy after surgery – to try to reduce the chance of the cancer coming back.

Remember that these statistics are general figures. Speak to your doctor about your own prognosis – if you want to know this.

Speak to our specialist nurses

If you have any questions or worries about your prognosis, speak to our specialist nurses. They can talk through anything that might be worrying you.

Speak to our nurses
Specialist nurse Dianne

Read more about surgery to remove pancreatic cancer

Find out more about surgery such as the Whipple’s procedure.

Surgery for pancreatic cancer

Read Karen's story

“I was diagnosed officially on 12th September 2010. I had been feeling off it for some time, feeling sick and then severe abdominal pains at night, which the GP said was indigestion.”

Karen

I was told it was nothing in my lifestyle that had caused it, I was a fit, healthy, non smoking and odd glass of wine woman. After eight days in high dependency, and four weeks in hospital I came home.

Published September 2020

To be reviewed September 2022