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The Difference Between Clinical Stage and Pathological Stage of Pancreatic Cancer

These are 2 types of stages used for cancer.

  • The clinical stage helps your doctor decide on your first treatment, especially if surgery is a good choice for you. For pancreatic cancer, your physical exam and imaging tests determine your clinical stage.

  • Doctors determine the pathological stage based on what the cells look like from a biopsy or surgery. Sometimes the pathological stage is higher than the clinical one because the tumor has spread more than what was expected.

Clinical Stages of Pancreatic Cancer

The Clinical-Radiologic staging system is based on the findings of your physical exam and imaging studies, such as computed tomography (CT) scans. This system emphasizes whether the cancer can be taken out by surgery.

  • Stage I is cancer that doctors can surgically remove. The cancer has not spread to large blood vessels or to other organs.

  • Stage II  is cancer that has spread beyond the pancreas, lymph nodes, or both.

  • Stage III  is cancer that has invaded major blood vessels or major nerves.

  • Stage IV  is metastatic cancer. Cancer has spread to the liver or to other organs.

Pathological Stages of Pancreatic Cancer

These stages reflect what your doctor knows about your cancer after a biopsy or surgery to remove the cancer. The stages are based on these things.

  • Size and extent of your tumor

  • The number of lymph nodes involved

  • How far the cancer has spread

The most common way doctors describe the pathological stage is with the TNM system.