One night to walk 21km for cancer – 4 December | Last chance!

Pancreatic cancer factsheet


Background on pancreatic cancer

Excellent information on pancreatic cancer is available from Cancer Council Victoria at:
https://www.cancervic.org.au/cancer-information/types-of-cancer

Here you will find information about the disease, risk factors, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment. Cancer Council Victoria also offers cancer support services for Victorians affected by cancer. You can find this information at:
https://www.cancervic.org.au/get-support/cancer-services-guide or phone 13 11 20.

What is pancreatic cancer?

The statistics provided in this report only includes patients diagnosed with primary pancreatic cancer. Primary pancreatic cancer refers to those cancers which are believed to have started in the pancreas. When cancer starts in another area of the body and spreads to the pancreas, it is referred to as secondary or metastatic cancer in the pancreas. The pancreas is a gland which lies between the stomach and spine. It has two main functions; (1) it assists the digestive system by producing enzymes which break down food, and (2) it produces the hormones insulin and glucagon which regulate the body’s sugar levels. Pancreatic cancer arises when cells in the pancreas grow and divide in an abnormal way. Most pancreatic cancer is found in the head of the pancreas (70%) with other tumours distributed across the body and tail of the organ.

How common is pancreatic cancer?

In 2019, 920 Victorians were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Of these, there were 477 males and 443 females, representing 51.8% and 48.2% of the total Victorian pancreatic cancer diagnoses, respectively. The median age at diagnosis of pancreatic cancer is 71 years in males and 75 in females (Figure 1 & 2). Accounting for 2.6% of all cancers diagnosed and 7.1% of all cancer-related deaths in 2019, pancreatic cancer was the 10th most commonly diagnosed cancer and the 4th most common cause of cancer-related deaths in Victoria.


Figure 1: Distribution of pancreatic cancer incidence in 2019, by sex within age groups

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2021)


Figure 2: Distribution of pancreatic cancer incidence in 2019 compared to the distribution of the Victorian population in 2019, by 5-year age brackets

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2021)

Pancreatic cancer morphology

Figure 4 provides a summary of the different types of cells (morphology) which have caused pancreatic cancer. Most pancreatic tumours, 58.7%, present as Adenocarcinoma tumours.


Figure 4: Distribution of pancreatic cancer cancer morphologies between 2010-2019

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2021)

Geographical variance in pancreatic cancer by local government area

Figure 5 demonstrates variation in age-standardised incidence rates of pancreatic cancer by local government areas. Darker shading indicates areas with higher rates of pancreatic cancer.


Figure 5: Distribution of pancreatic cancer incidence in 2019, by location of residence in Victoria

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2021)

Pancreatic cancer in people born overseas

Figure 6 shows the age standardised incidence rates of pancreatic cancer in Australian-born Victorians compared to other major migrant groups, over the five-year period 2015 to 2019. The highest age standardised incidence rate for pancreatic cancer was 9.1 for males born in the Middle East and North Africa region and the lowest rate of 3.9 was observed in males born in the Southern and Central Asia region. The highest age standardised incidence rate of pancreatic cancer was 8.4 for females born in the Middle East and North Africa region and the lowest rate of 2.4 was observed in females born in the North America region.


Figure 6: Age standardised incidence rates and 95% confidence intervals for pancreatic cancer in Australia compared to other countries for the period 2015 - 2019, by sex

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2021)


Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2021)



Pancreatic cancer five-year relative survival

Figure 7 demonstrates that five-year relative survival has increased for pancreatic cancer between 1989-1993 and 2014-2018 from 4% to 12%.

Figure 7: Trend in five year relative survival following diagnosis of pancreatic cancer in five year brackets, from the period 1989-1993 to 2014-2018

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2021)