Prognosis if you can have surgery

Some people want to know whether their cancer can be cured, or how long they may have left to live. This is called your prognosis, outlook or life expectancy.

The prognosis will be different for each person. It depends on several things, including whether the cancer has spread, how far it has spread, your general health 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. After treatment, you will have check-ups. If the cancer comes back, you may be offered further treatment with chemotherapy and possibly radiotherapy if appropriate.

You may not want to know your prognosis. It’s up to you whether you find out about it. But if you want to know, speak to your doctor or nurse. They won’t be able to give you an exact timeframe, as everybody is different. But 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 or relevant to you. So it’s important to speak to your doctor about your own situation.

 

Questions you may want to ask your doctor or nurse


  • How successful is surgery likely to be?
  • 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 give my permission?
  • If I don’t want to know my prognosis but my family do, can you speak to them in confidence if I give my permission?
  • Is there anything I can do to help me live longer?

Survival rates for pancreatic cancer

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

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 cancer. You may hear this called a pancreatic neuroendocrine tumour, pancreatic NET, PancNET or pNET. If you have been diagnosed with neuroendocrine cancer, speak to your doctor about your prognosis, as the statistics are different.

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 stage 1 and 2 pancreatic cancer (early pancreatic cancer) in England is 47%. This means about 47 out of 100 people are still alive after one year. This figure includes people who did and did not have surgery.

The five year survival rate for stage 1 and 2 pancreatic cancer is 12%, which means 12 out of 100 people are still alive after 5 years.

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

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 have surgery, cancer cells may already have spread outside the pancreas, and the cancer may start to grow again. 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

We know that these statistics may seem frightening. You can speak to our specialist nurses on our Support Line at any time to get support and find out more about prognosis.

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 November 2022

To be reviewed November 2025