Can Cancer Be Cured?Doctors almost never refer to someone’s cancer as being cured. Instead, they’ll say it’s in remission. Remission is defined as a decrease in or disappearance of the signs and symptoms of cancer. In partial remission, some of the signs and symptoms of cancer have disappeared, but not all. In complete remission, all signs and symptoms have disappeared. Complete remission does not necessarily mean that there is no cancer left in the body: there may be microscopic collections of cancer cells that can’t be detected by current methods. But the longer the patient is in remission, the greater the chances that the cancer has been completed eradicated.
Cancer Survival RatesCancer survival rates show the percentage of people who survive a certain type of cancer for a specific amount of time. Doctors sometimes refer to a 5-year cure survival rate or a 10-year survival rate. For example, the 5-year survival rate for prostate cancer is 99%. That means that of all men diagnosed with prostate cancer, 99 of every 100 lived for 5 years after diagnosis. As cancer treatment advances, people with cancer are living for longer and longer periods of time. Survival rates are now quoted for 10, 15, or even 20 years. READ MORE
Overall and relative survival rates don’t tell you if the cancer survivors have achieved remission or are undergoing treatment. There are other survival rates that give more specific information:
- Disease-free survival rate is the number of people who have achieved remission.
- Progression-free survival rate is the number of people who still have cancer, but their disease isn’t progressing.
Limitations of Survival StatisticsSurvival rates are useful tools for understanding a prognosis and developing a treatment plan, but they have limitations. Survival rates are a generalization: they’re based on studies of hundreds or thousands of people, all of whom are different in some way from the patient looking at the data. They may be younger or older, they may be in better or worse general health, and their cancer may have been diagnosed in its early or late stages. Moreover, survival rates are always outdated. The people included in the latest cancer statistics were diagnosed with cancer more than 5 years ago, and so didn’t benefit from any recent advances in cancer treatment.
Using Statistical Information, or NotSome patients might choose not to look at survival rates at all and decline to discuss them with their doctors, and this is a perfectly legitimate choice. Survival statistics can be confusing and frightening at a time when having a positive attitude is very important. READ MORE
But if cancer patients do choose to look at statistical information in order to understand more about the prognosis for their type of cancer, it’s important for them to be as knowledgeable as possible. The more people know about the type, grade, and stage of their cancer, the more closely they can predict their risk. Often physicians can help interpret the numbers and put the statistics in perspective. LESS