+ -Text Size

Survival rates tell you what portion of people with the same type and stage of cancer are still alive a certain amount of time (usually 5 years) after they were diagnosed. They can’t tell you how long you will live, but they may help give you a better understanding about how likely it is that your treatment will be successful. Some people will want to know the survival rates for their cancer, and some people won’t. If you don’t want to know, you don’t have to.

What is a 5-year survival rate?

Statistics on the outlook for a certain type and stage of cancer are often given as 5-year survival rates, but many people live longer – often much longer – than 5 years. The 5-year survival rate is the percentage of people who live at least 5 years after being diagnosed with cancer. For example, a 5-year survival rate of 70% means that an estimated 70 out of 100 people who have that cancer are still alive 5 years after being diagnosed. Keep in mind, however, that many of these people live much longer than 5 years after diagnosis.

But remember, the 5-year relative survival rates are estimates – your outlook can vary based on a number of factors specific to you.

Cancer survival rates don’t tell the whole story

Survival rates are often based on previous outcomes of large numbers of people who had the disease, but they can’t predict what will happen in any particular person’s case. There are a number of limitations to remember:

  • The numbers below are among the most current available. But to get 5-year survival rates, doctors have to look at people who were treated at least 5 years ago. As treatments are improving over time, people who are now being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer may have a better outlook than these statistics show.
  • These statistics are based on the stage of the cancer when it was first diagnosed. They do not apply to cancers that later come back or spread, for example.
  • The outlook for people with pancreatic cancer varies by the stage (extent) of the cancer – in general, the survival rates are higher for people with earlier stage cancers. But many other factors can affect a person’s outlook, such as age and overall health, and how well the cancer responds to treatment. The outlook for each person is specific to their circumstances.

Your doctor can tell you how these numbers may apply to you, as he or she is familiar with your particular situation.

Survival rates for exocrine pancreatic cancer

The numbers below come from the National Cancer Data Base and are based on people diagnosed with exocrine pancreatic cancer between 1992 and 1998. In general, people who can be treated with surgery tend to live longer than those not treated with surgery.

  • The 5-year survival rate for people with stage IA pancreatic cancer is about 14%. For stage IB cancer, the 5-year survival rate is about 12%.
  • For stage IIA pancreatic cancer, the 5-year survival rate is about 7%. For stage IIB cancer, the 5-year survival rate is about 5%.
  • The 5-year survival rate for stage III pancreatic cancer is about 3%.
  • Stage IV pancreatic cancer has a 5-year survival rate of about 1%. Still, there are often treatment options available for people with this stage of cancer.

Remember, these survival rates are only estimates – they can’t predict what will happen to any individual person. We understand that these statistics can be confusing and may lead you to have more questions. Talk to your doctor to better understand your specific situation.

Survival rates for neuroendocrine pancreatic tumors (treated with surgery)

For pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (NETs), survival statistics by stage are only available for patients treated with surgery. These numbers come from the National Cancer Data Base and are based on patients diagnosed between 1985 and 2004.

  • The 5-year survival rate for people with stage I pancreatic NETs is about 61%.
  • For stage II pancreatic NETs, the 5-year survival rate is about 52%.
  • The 5-year relative survival rate for stage III pancreatic NETs is about 41%.
  • Stage IV pancreatic NETs have a 5-year survival rate of about 16%. Still, there are often treatment options available for people with these cancers.

In this database, the overall 5-year survival rate for people who did not have their tumors removed by surgery was 16%.


Last Medical Review: 03/14/2016
Last Revised: 04/05/2016