The extent of a cancer is defined by progressive stages. For instance, pancreatic cancer Stage I has not spread as far as pancreatic cancer Stage 2. Developed by the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) and the International Union Against Cancer, this staging system is used universally. The stages of pancreatic cancer are as follows:
Stage 0 (pancreatic cancer in situ)
- Tumor is only in the pancreatic duct cells’ top layer and has not penetrated into the cells.
Stage I – Cancer is contained within the pancreas and has not spread to lymph nodes or distants areas within the body. Stage I is divided into two sub-sections.
- Stage IA – Cancer is two centimeters across or less
- Stage IB – Cancer is larger than two centimeters across
Stage II - Cancer has not spread to nearby nerves, major blood vessels or distant areas within the body. Stage II is divided into two subsections.
- Stage IIA – Cancer has spread to areas near the pancreas, but not to neighboring lymph nodes.
- Stage IIB – Cancer may have spread to neighboring areas, and has spread to lymph nodes close to the pancreas.
Stage III – Cancer has not spread to distant areas of the body, but has reached neighboring nerves or major blood vessels and possibly to lymph nodes near the pancreas.
Stage IV – Cancer has spread to distant organs such as the liver, abdominal lining or lungs.
Another way of staging pancreatic cancer is by how easily it is cured. A resectable cancer, for instance, means that all of the tumor nodules can be removed; locally advanced cancer cannot be completely removed because it has spread to tissues around the pancreas or into the blood vessels; and metastatic cancer has spread to distant organs, such as the lungs and liver.