Prognosis (Life expectancy)
Like any cancer there are many things that can impact on survival rates, so it is best to talk to your cancer specialist for guidance about your own care and outcomes. Remember, even with a pancreatic cancer diagnosis, no one can know for certain how long anyone will live. Estimates of life expectancy are based on historical data, however treatments are becoming more effective over time which changes these estimates.
Prognosis is usually improved the earlier the cancer is detected. Your doctor will be able to give you the best idea of prognosis.
Often, statistics talk about survival rates which are taken from an average of other patients. These are usually described in 1, 5 and 10-year survival rates. A 10-year survival rate means that someone has not died 10 years after having cancer, however many people live much longer than this.
Click here to view pancreatic cancer statistics related to morbidity (number of diagnoses) and mortality (survival rate). Remember that everyone is different, and statistics are only a guide:
Click here to view pancreatic cancer statistics related to morbidity (number of diagnoses) and mortality (survival rate). Remember that everyone is different, and statistics are only a guide.
In general, pancreatic endocrine tumours tend to have a better prognosis than exocrine tumours (PDAC) which can be very aggressive and difficult to treat.
Each year, 758 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. That is equivalent to about 15 people for every 100,000. This rate is increasing year on year.
Unfortunately, although pancreatic cancer treatments are becoming more effective, pancreatic cancer has a poor long-term survival rate and it is the 5th most common cause of cancer death in New Zealand as it is usually diagnosed once it has spread.
Pancreatic cancer generally has an overall survival rate of 20.4% at one year, 6.5% at 5 years and 6.6% at 10 years.
Around 537 New Zealanders die from pancreatic cancer each year.
If diagnosed early, it can be cured. Prompt investigation of symptoms is important to ensure pancreatic cancer is diagnosed and treated as early as possible.
Currently there is no screening programme for pancreatic cancer and so the need to come together to improve diagnosis outcomes is growing more urgent.
Ministry of Health data shows a 40 percent increase in rates of pancreatic cancer in the two decades to 2017. Additionally, incidence is higher among men than women in New Zealand, and 80% higher among Māori than non-Māori.
Remember that everyone is different, and statistics are only a guide.
Seeking a second opinion
Following diagnosis, some people choose to request a second opinion because they want to have peace of mind that they have explored all options and opinions available to them before starting treatment. If you would like to know more about your care team and how to seek a second opinion, click this link.
Asking for a second opinion can feel uncomfortable and awkward however be reassured that it is not unusual.
Second opinions are requested for a variety of different reasons. Some people seek a second opinion because they want to have peace of mind that they have explored all options and opinions available before starting treatment. Some people may have heard about a treatment and want another doctor’s opinion about it. Some people feel that the communication with their doctor is difficult and they would like to speak to someone who may have a different approach.
If you do want a second, or even third, opinion, make sure to let your GP know in advance to that they can share any tests or assessments that have been done so far.
You can seek a second opinion by either:
Asking your Oncologist
Asking your GP to refer you for a second opinion
It is also a good idea to check with your GP or Oncologist whether seeking a second opinion would delay treatment.
Below is an example of how you might start the conversation with your doctor to request a second opinion.
“I think I would like to seek a second opinion to make sure that I have covered all my bases before starting treatment. Can you help me with that?”