Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer is relatively uncommon, accounting for only 2.5% of all cancer cases in Australia. Therefore, some people may not fully understand the role of the pancreas and how cancer can develop here. This section outlines the functions of the pancreas, as well as important information about pancreatic cancer, including possible causes, diagnosis and treatment.

Pancreas Cancer Statistics

Pancreatic cancer accounts for 2.2% of all new cancer diagnoses in Australia. 2,825 people were diagnosed in 2012 and sadly 2,543 people succumbed to the disease that same year. The high mortality and poor survival rates for pancreatic cancer have only marginally improved over a forty year period.


It is estimated that there will be 3,123 new cases of pancreatic cancer in 2016, ranking the disease as the 10th most commonly diagnosed cancer type in Australia. The risk of pancreatic cancer increases with age, with the average age at diagnosis 70 years and men at a slightly higher risk than women. The lifetime risk of developing pancreatic cancer is approximately 1.5%.



In 2012, pancreatic cancer was the 5th most common cause of cancer death in Australian, accounting for nearly 6% of all cancer deaths. Lung, bowel, prostate and breast cancer were the most common causes of cancer death.

 Risk of Diagnosis before 75 yrsRisk of Diagnosis before 85 yrs
Male1 in 1191 in 59
Female1 in 1581 in 72
Persons1 in 1361 in 68


The five-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer in Australia has increased to 7% (2008-2012), a small but important improvement from the 3% rate reported 25 years ago (1983-1987). Some cancers have been successful in improving survival through improved diagnostic methods, earlier detection and better treatment options. For instance, the five-year survival rate for males with prostate cancer has increased to 94%, and 90% for women with breast cancer. For all cancers, the survival rate decreases with age.

This poor prognosis for pancreatic cancer is directly related to late diagnosis, when the disease is often locally advanced or metastatic. Only about 15-20% of people are able to undergo resection of the cancer, and of these approximately 15% are expected to have a five-year survival.