Treatment by stage

Staging is the process the doctor uses to determine the extent of the cancer in the body. After a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer has been made, additional imaging tests and surgery may be required to accurately determine the stage. Knowing the correct stage helps the doctor determine the prognosis and best course of treatment.

There are two ways to describe the stages of pancreatic cancer: by stage number or by surgical resection category. The stage number indicates the size and location of the cancer. The surgical resection category indicates whether or not the tumor can be surgically removed. Both are determined by the size and location of the primary tumor, the involvement of local lymph nodes and blood vessels and the presence of distant metastases. Metastases are tumors that have spread to other parts of the body. The doctor may use one or both methods to describe the stage. The following chart details each stage and shows the relationship between stage number and resection category.

Stage Number Description Surgical Resection Category
Stage IA Tumor is limited to the pancreas and measures 2 centimeters (cm) or less at its largest point. Resectable/Local
Stage IB Tumor is limited to the pancreas and measures greater than 2 cm.
Stage IIA Tumor extends directly beyond the pancreas but does not involve the local arteries (celiac axis and superior mesenteric artery) or local lymph nodes. Potentially Resectable/ Locally Advanced
Stage IIB Tumor may or may not extend beyond the pancreas but does not involve the celiac axis or superior mesenteric artery. Local lymph nodes are involved. 
Stage III Tumor involves major arteries, the celiac axis and/or superior mesenteric artery (SMA).  Regional lymph nodes may or may not be involved. Unresectable/
Locally Advanced
Stage IV Primary tumor may be any size.  Disease has metastasized, or spread, to another part of the body, including the liver, abdominal wall, lungs, and/or distant lymph nodes. Unresectable/Metastatic

The following links contain more information on treatment options.


Radiation Therapy

Targeted Therapy


Clinical Trials



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