When the physicians talk about staging, they are referring to determining the size of the tumor and if it has spread or not. This information is then used to determine the best treatment. In the case of pancreatic cancer, the size of the tumor and whether or not it involves important blood vessels determines if it can be surgically removed. Pancreatic cancer is staged on the TNM system (also called tumor - node - metastasis system). This describes the size of the tumor (T), if the lymph nodes are involved (N), and if it has spread to other areas of the body (M).

  • Tis: "In situ"
  • T1: Tumor confined to the pancreas, 2 cm or less
  • T2: Tumor confined to the pancreas, greater than 2 cm
  • T3: Tumor extending beyond the pancreas, but not involving the superior mesenteric artery or celiac axis
  • T4: Tumor involves the superior mesenteric artery or celiac axis
  • N0: No lymph node involvement
  • N1: Lymph nodes are positive for cancer
  • M0: No distant metastases
  • M1: Distant metastases are present
Characteristics of Various Stages

Stage

Tumor

Node

Metastasis

Stage 0

Tis

N0

M0

Stage IA

T1

N0

M0

Stage IB

T2

N0

M0

Stage IIA

T3

N0

M0

Stage IIB

T1

N1

M0

Stage IIB

T2

N1

M0

Stage IIB

T3

N1

M0

Stage III

T4

Any N

M0

Stage IV

Any T

Any N

M1