Other factors that affect prognosis include the biological and genetic properties of the cancer cells(these properties, which are sometimes calledbiomarkers,can be determined by specific labandimaging tests
), the patient’s age and overall general health,
and the extent to which the patient’s
cancer responds to treatment.
How do statistics contribute to predicting a patient’s prognosis?
In estimating a cancer patient’s prognosis, doctors consider the characteristics of the patient’s
disease, the available treatment options, and any health problems the patient may have that couldaffect the course of the disease or its ability to be treated successfully.The doctor bases the prognosis, in large part, on information researchers have collected over manyyears about hundreds or even thousands of people with the same type of cancer. When possible,doctors use statistics based on groups of people whose situations are most similar to that of thepatient.Several types of statistics may be used to estimate a cancer
patient’s prognosis. The most
commonly used statistics are listed below.
Cancer-specific survival: This statistic calculates the percentage of patients with a specific typeandstageof cancer who have survived
that is, not died from
their cancer during a certain periodof time (1 year, 2 years, 5 years, etc.) after diagnosis. Cancer-specific survival is alsocalled
. In most cases, cancer-specific survival is based on causes of deathin medical records, which may not be accurate. To avoid this inaccuracy, another method used toestimate cancer-specific survival that does not rely on information about the cause of deathis
Relative survival: This statistic compares the survival of patients diagnosed with cancer (for example, breast cancer) with the survival of people in the general population who are the same age,race, and sex and who have not been diagnosed with that cancer. It is the percentage of cancer patients who have survived for a certain period of time after diagnosis
to people withoutcancer.
Overall survival: This statistic is the percentage of patients with a specific type and stage of cancer who are still alive
that is, have not died from any cause
during a certain period of time after diagnosis.
Disease-free survival: This statistic is the percentage of patients who have no evidence of cancer during a certain period of time after treatment. Other similar terms arerecurrence-freeor progression-free survival. Cancer survival statistics are frequently given in terms of 5-year survival relative to the generalpopulation (that is, as 5-
year relative survival percentages or ―rates‖). For exampl
e, according to
NCI’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results program, the 5
-year relative survival ratefor allwomen diagnosed with breast cancer during the period from 2001 through 2007 was 89 percent andthe 5-year relative survival rate for all patients diagnosed with lung cancer during the same periodwas 16 percent.