By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
Survival rates are estimated and used as a way of explaining to cancer patients what their prognosis is. Survival statistics can help a patient understand how long they may survive after they are diagnosed with cancer.
While this may give hope to some patients, others may find survival estimates unhelpful and may not even want to hear them.
When dealing with cancer patients, the 5-year survival rate is often used, which refers to the proportion of people who survive for at least five years after they have been diagnosed with cancer. Many patients who are diagnosed may survive more than five years or may even be cured with treatment.
Five-year relative survival rates adjust for the fact that people may die from causes unrelated to cancer and are relative to the expected survival rates of people without cancer. Survival rates are often based on outcome data for large numbers of people who were diagnosed with cancer and cannot be used to predict the prognosis for a specific individual.
Prostate cancer is a relatively slow growing cancer in most individuals and therefore survival rates are usually high. Doctors explain to the patients how well the numbers may apply to them in the context of the various aspects of their disease. According to the most recent survival data on all stages of prostate cancer:
The relative 5-year survival rate is between 99% and 100%
The 10-year survival rate is 98%
The 15-year survival rate is 93%
Survival by stage
Survival rates also vary depending on the stage of the cancer when it was first diagnosed. Patients with cancers that have been detected in the early stages have a longer survival rate compared with those with cancers detected at a later and more advanced stage.
A database held by the National Cancer Institute provides survival data for different types of cancer that are categorised according to whether they were local, regional or distant at the time of diagnosis. Local refers to cancer confined to the prostate, regional to cancer that has spread to nearby but not distant areas, and distant refers to cancer that has spread to distant lymph nodes, bones or other areas of the body. According to the cancer stage at diagnosis, the 5-year survival rates are:
100% for local stage
100% for regional stage
28% for distant stage
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc
Last Updated: Jan 22, 2014