Cancer Survival Rates Can Increase the Anxiety

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One of the first questions many people ask when first diagnosed with cancer is about their prognosis. They might want to know whether the cancer is relatively easy or more difficult to cure. The doctor cannot predict the future, but often he/she gives the estimates based on the experiences of other people with the same cancer. Survival statistics can be confusing and frightening. Survival rates cannot tell about the situation specifically. The statistics may be impersonal and not very helpful.

Cancer survival rates or survival statistics indicate the percentage of people who survive a certain type of cancer for a specific amount of time. Cancer statistics often use a five–year survival rate. For instance, the five–year survival rate for prostate cancer is 99 percent. That means that of all men diagnosed with prostate cancer, 99 of every 100 lived for five years after diagnosis. Conversely, one out of every 100 will die of prostate cancer within five years.

Cancer survival rates are based on research that comes from information gathered on hundreds or thousands of people with cancer. An overall survival rate includes people of all ages and health conditions diagnosed with the cancer, including those diagnosed very early and those diagnosed very late. Only the treating doctor may be able to give more specific statistics based on the stage of cancer. For instance, 49 percent, or about half, of people diagnosed with early–stage lung cancer live for at least five years after diagnosis. The five–year survival rate for people diagnosed with lung cancer that has spread (metastasized) to other areas of the body is 2 percent.

Overall and relative survival rates do not specify whether cancer survivors are still undergoing treatment at five years or if they’ve become cancer free (achieved remission). The five year survival rates for all men is 47.3–66%% and for all women is 55.8–63%

Other terms

  • Disease–free survival rate. This is the number of people with cancer who achieve remission. That means they no longer have signs of cancer in their bodies.
  • Progression–free survival rate. This is the number of people who still have cancer, but their disease isn’t progressing. This includes people who may have had some success with treatment, but their cancer hasn’t disappeared completely.