Treatment Options For Stage 1 Pancreatic Cancer

What is stage I of pancreatic cancer?

Pancreatic cancer is staged primarily using the TNM method of staging cancers, T stands for Tumour, N stands for node and M for Metastasis. Tumour shows the size of the primary tumour, Node shows the presence of cancer in the lymph nodes and Metastasis is the spreading of cancer from the primary tissue to the other tissues and organs.
In stage 1, the cancer is confined to the pancreas measuring less than 2cm in size and has not spread to the lymph nodes or the adjacent organs.

Picture of a patient in pain from pancreatic cancer

Treatment options:

The treatment options for pancreatic cancer depend on the stage of cancer, patients performance status and feasibility of resection of tumor based on imaging studies. the spread of the tumour and the location of cancer along with the patient’s symptoms and response to treatment. Staging is an important factor to decide the course of treatment of this cancer. In stage 1 of pancreatic cancer, many tumours are resectable meaning they can be removed through surgery and about 15 to 20% of the pancreatic cancers are surgically resectable. For eligible patients, surgery is the best best course of treatment.


Surgery is the best method of treatment for pancreatic cancers in the early stages and for some pancreatic neuroendocrine tumours. Surgical procedures are used in removing the tumour and the surrounding lymph nodes if the cancer has not spread beyond the pancreas. Some of the different surgeries available for pancreatic cancers are:

  • Pancreaticoduodenectomy or Whipple procedure
  • Partial Pancreatectomy
  • Pylorus-preserving procedure

Read more about the surgical procedures of pancreatic cancer treatment here 

Adjuvant therapy:

This therapy is given post surgical procedures. Depending on the recurrence of the cancer and recovery of the patient, the treatment usually starts within 8-12 weeks after surgery.
This treatment might include chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapeutic drugs are given for around 6 months post surgery. For most effective results, a combination of gemcitabine and capecitabine is given.
  • Radiotherapy: Depending upon the recovery of the patient, radiotherapy is given when there are no clear margins post surgery.

Survival rates:

The survival rate usually refers to the five year survival rate that shows how many patients out of 100 live beyond five years after first being diagnosed by a specific cancer. It can be an indicator to understand the outlook of the patient based on the type and stage of cancer. Stage I of pancreatic cancer is further of two stages, IA and IB, with survival rates of 14% and 12% respectively.

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