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 2.5% of all new cancer diagnoses in Australia. 3,599 people are expected to be diagnosed in 2019 and sadly 3,051 people are expected to succumb to disease in the 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 3,500 new cases of pancreatic cancer in 2019 (1,899 males and 1,710 females). It is 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. Men at a slightly higher risk than women. In 2019, the risk of an individual being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer by their 85th birthday will be 1 in 62 or 1.6% (1 in 55 for males, 1 in 71 for females).



In 2016, pancreatic cancer was the 5th most common cause of cancer death in Australia. It is expected to account for 6.1% of all cancer deaths in 2019. Lung, colorectal, 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 is 9.8% (2011-2015). This is a small but important improvement from the 3.3% survival rate reported in 1986-2015. Some cancers have been successful in improving survival through improved diagnostic methods, earlier detection and better treatment options. For example, the five-year survival rate for males with prostate cancer has increased to 95%, and 91% 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.