Healthcare Policy and Outcomes

Annals of Surgical Oncology

, Volume 20, Issue 2, pp 357-361

First online:

Survival Among Pancreaticoduodenectomy Patients Treated for Pancreatic Head Cancer <1 or 2 cm

  • Jan FrankoAffiliated withMercy Medical Center Email author 
  • , Vladimir HugecAffiliated withMaplewood Cancer Center
  • , Tercio L. LopesAffiliated withIowa Digestive Disease Center
  • , Charles D. GoldmanAffiliated withMercy Medical Center

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Size of primary tumor has implications for staging, imaging, and treatment of pancreatic head carcinomas. Limited data suggest that small tumor size is associated with better survival. The objective of this population study is to analyze characteristics and survival of patients with resected pancreatic head ductal carcinomas sized <1 and 2 cm.


Analysis of resected invasive pancreatic head ductal carcinomas captured within SEER Program from 1998 to 2008.


A total of 7,135 cases were analyzed with nodal metastases in 31, 55, and 67 % for subcentimeter, 1.1–2 cm, and >2 cm tumors, respectively. Median survival was longest for node-negative tumors (38, 26, 19 months for tumors measuring ≤1, 1.1–2, and >2 cm, respectively; p < 0.001) versus node-positive tumors (18, 19, 14 months, p < 0.001). In multivariate analysis, large tumor size was associated with higher risk of death (hazard ratio (HR) = 1.179 for tumors 1.1–2 cm, p = 0.152; HR = 1.665 for tumors >2 cm, p < 0.001).


Small pancreatic cancers have a poor prognosis and surprisingly high rate of nodal involvement; therefore, they cannot be considered early cancers. Size-based screening is unlikely to save lives with current treatment options.