A prognosis is a calculated guess about how or whether a person will recover from a disease. It’s a question many people have when they learn they have cancer.
The decision to ask about your prognosis is a personal one. It is up to you to decide how much you want to know. Some people find it easier to cope when they know their prognosis and the statistics for how well a treatment might work. Other people find statistics confusing and frightening. Or they might think it is too general to be useful.
A health care provider who is most familiar with you is in the best position to discuss your prognosis with you and explain what the statistics may mean for you. At the same time, you should keep in mind that a prognosis may change. A favorable prognosis can change if the cancer progresses. An unfavorable one can change if a treatment is successful.
Your health care provider will consider all the things that could affect the cancer and its treatment. Your health care provider will look at risk estimates about the cancer. These are based on what researchers have found out over many years about thousands of people with melanoma. When possible, your health care provider will use statistics for groups of people whose situations are most like yours, to estimate your prognosis.
If your cancer is likely to respond well to treatment, your health care provider will say you have a favorable prognosis. If your cancer is likely to be hard to control, your prognosis may be less favorable. It is important to keep in mind that a prognosis states what is probable. It is not a prediction of what will definitely happen. No health care provider can be fully certain about an outcome.
Your chance of recovery depends on:
The type and location of the cancer
The stage of the disease
Your overall health
Survival rates show the percentage of people who live for a certain length of time after being told they have cancer. The rates are specific to people with a certain type and stage of cancer. Often, statistics for prostate cancer refer to a 5-year survival rate. That’s the percentage of men who are living 5 years after diagnosis. The survival rate includes men who are:
Men who are free of disease
Men who have few or no signs or symptoms of cancer
Men who are still getting cancer treatment
Most men with prostate cancer live much longer than 5 years after diagnosis. Because the current statistics for 5-year rates are based on men diagnosed and first treated more than 5 years ago, the outlook could be even better now. Men diagnosed recently often have a better outlook because of improvements in treatment.
The prognosis is excellent for men with prostate cancer that hasn’t spread. Below are the most recent statistics from the National Cancer Institute. The rates are adjusted to account for some men with prostate cancer dying of other causes.
5-year relative survival rates:
Prostate cancer still confined to the prostate: almost 100%
Prostate cancer that’s grown just outside the prostate or has reached nearby lymph nodes: almost 100%
Prostate cancer that has spread to distant parts of the body: about 28%
Prostate cancer for all men combined: about 99% (because most prostate cancer is found at an early stage)
You can ask your health care provider about survival rates. He or she can help you understand what numbers may apply to you. Remember, statistics are based on large groups of people and can’t be used to predict what will happen to a certain person. No two people are exactly alike, and treatment and responses to treatment vary.