When someone hears the word cancer, their first thought is often “Is cancer curable?” Many people want to know what their prognosis is right away, while others find it daunting. Your oncologist will not be able to predict what will happen, but cancer research enables them to make an educated prognosis. Cancer survival statistics can help you and your doctor understand your prognosis better and inform a personalized treatment plan. Knowing what to expect can relieve any anxiety as you analyze all of your options.
Understanding Your Cancer Prognosis
A cancer prognosis can be difficult to talk about for the person battling the disease, their loved ones, and even oncologists. You might have questions about your prognosis, including how serious it is and your chances of survival. Every cancer is unique and requires a personalized treatment plan. There is no cure for cancer but whether it’s curable depends on what type of cancer, what stage it is in, what treatment options you can get, and other personal health factors.
Factors that Affect Your Prognosis
Many factors can affect your cancer prognosis. Oncologists will establish the type of cancer and its location in your body through various medical exams. These can include blood work, biopsies, CT scans, PET scans, and MRIs. They will also determine what stage it is in, which can significantly impact your prognosis. Cancer staging refers to how large the cancer is and if it has spread to other parts of your body.
Cancer grade is another critical factor to consider, which refers to abnormalities of cancer cells underneath a microscope. This indicates how likely the cancer will grow and spread. Since every individual is unique, age, how healthy you were before you were diagnosed, and how your body responds to treatment also play a role in your cancer prognosis.
The Difference Between Cure and Remission
People often use cure and remission cancer interchangeably, but there is a significant difference between the two.
What Is a Cure?
A cure indicates that the cancer has gone away with treatment and is not expected to return. In any case, it is difficult for an oncologist to know for sure that the cancer will not come back, but it is more likely the longer a person is cancer free.
What Is Remission?
Cancer is often in remission even when treatment appears to be successful. Cancer in remission refers to a period when a patient successfully responds to treatment and the cancer is under control. There are two types of remission: partial and complete. In partial remission, cancer has shrunk but has not entirely gone away. There are no signs and symptoms of cancer, and cancer cells are not present on tests when someone is in complete remission.
Remission cancer can last from weeks to years. Most cancers will return within five years of treatment. Therefore, if you remain in remission for more than five years, some oncologists will say you are cured. However, many doctors will continue to monitor and take tests for many years to ensure the cancer has not come back and that there are no late side effects from the treatment you received.
Statistics About Survival
When someone receives a cancer diagnosis, they often want to know their survival rate. Various factors affect this, but some statistics help oncologists estimate your prognosis. Researchers collected these statistics over many years from patients with the same type of cancer.
Cancer-specific survival: Cancer-specific survival is the percentage of patients with a specific type and stage of cancer who have not died within a designated period. It can range from one to five years, but researchers typically use five years. This statistic is generally based on the cause of death.
Relative-survival: Relative-survival is also used in cancer-specific survival but does not estimate based on the cause of death. Instead, it compares the percentage of cancer patients who have survived for a specific period to people who don’t have cancer.
Disease-free survival: Disease-free survival is the percentage of patients with no signs of cancer for a specific period after treatment. This is also known as recurrence-free or progression-free survival.
Overall survival rate: Overall survival determines the percentage of patients with a specific type and stage of cancer who have not died from any cause during a period since their diagnosis.
These are based on large groups of people; every individual’s case is different, so survival statistics will not predict precisely what will happen with your prognosis. However, your oncologist will use this research to provide you with the most helpful and up-to-date information.
How You Cope With a Cancer Prognosis Is a Personal Decision
Cancer can be extremely challenging for you and your loved ones. You will have to navigate many unknowns, including a treatment plan if you choose, how to manage side effects and take care of yourself, and the financial burden of cancer treatment.
Understanding your prognosis for cancer and what to expect can help you and your loved ones make the best decisions for you. However, some people might find prognosis levels confusing and frightening. Coping with a cancer diagnosis and deciding what information you choose to seek is a personal decision. If you decide not to seek treatment, the doctor that knows your situation best is in the best position to discuss your prognosis.
At Horizon Oncology, we treat a wide range of conditions. Our providers offer quality, compassionate care that respects the individual needs of our patients and their families. Contact us to learn more about our innovative approach to cancer care.