"Doctors estimate prognosis by using statistics that researchers have collected over a number of years concerning people with the same form of cancer."
If you have cancer, you might have questions concerning the severity of your cancer and your chances of survival. The estimate of how the disease will go for you is called, 'prognosis.' It may be difficult to understand what prognosis means and also hard to communicate about - even for doctors. A number of things may affect prognosis, to include:
'Grade,' provides clues about how rapidly the cancer is likely to grow and spread. The pursuit of information concerning your prognosis is definitely a personal decision.
Seeking Information About Your Prognosis
When a person has cancer, they and their loved ones face several unknowns. Understanding your cancer and knowing what to expect may help you and your loved ones make decisions. Some of the decisions people might face include the following:
A number of people with forms of cancer want to know their prognosis. They find it easier to cope when they know more about the form of cancer they experience. You might ask your doctor about survival statistics, or search for the information on your own. Some people with cancer find statistics frightening and confusing and think they are too impersonal to be of any value. It is up to you to decide how much information you want. If you do decide you want more information, the doctor who knows the most about your particular form of cancer is in the best position to discuss your prognosis and explain what the statistics mean.
Understanding Statistics About Survival
Doctors estimate prognosis by using statistics that researchers have collected over a number of years concerning people with the same form of cancer. Several types of statistics might be used to estimate prognosis. The most commonly used statistics include the following.
Overall survival: The percentage of people with a particular form and stage of cancer who have not died from any cause during a certain period of time following diagnosis.
Disease-Free Survival: This statistic is the percentage of people who have no signs of cancer during a certain period of time following treatment. Additional names for this statistic are, 'recurrence-free,' or, 'progression-free,' survival.
Relative Survival: This statistic is another method used to estimate cancer-specific survival which does not use information concerning the cause of death. It is the percentage of people with cancer who have survived for a certain period of time following diagnosis compared to people who do not experience cancer.
Cancer-Specific Survival: The percentage of people with a specific form and stage of cancer who have not died from their cancer during a certain period of time following diagnosis. The period of time may be one, two, five years and so forth, with five years being the time period used most often. Cancer-specific survival is also called, 'disease-specific survival.' In most instances, cancer-specific survival is based on causes of death listed in medical records.
Due to the fact that statistics are based upon large groups of people, they cannot be used to predict exactly what will happen to a person with cancer; everyone is different. Treatments and how people respond to it may differ very greatly. It also takes years to see the benefits of new treatments and ways of finding cancer. The statistics your doctor uses to make a prognosis might not be based on treatments being used today.
A doctor may tell you that you have a good prognosis if statistics suggest that your form of cancer is likely to respond well to treatment. The doctor might tell you that you have a poor prognosis if the cancer is more difficult to control. Whatever a doctor tells you, bear in mind that a prognosis is an educated guess at best. A doctor cannot be certain how things will go for you.
If you decide not to pursue cancer treatment, a doctor who best knows your situation is in the position to discuss your prognosis. Survival statistics most often come from studies that compare treatments with each other, instead of treatment without treatment. So - it might not be easy for a doctor to provide you with an accurate prognosis.
The Difference Between Cure and Remission
'Cure,' means there are no traces of cancer following treatment and the cancer will never return. 'Remission,' means the signs and symptoms of your cancer are reduced. Remission may be partial or complete. In a complete remission, all signs and symptoms of cancer have disappeared.
If you remain in complete remission for five or more years, some doctors might say you are cured. Some cancer cells; however, may remain in your body for a number of years after treatment. The cells might cause the cancer to return one day. For cancers that return, the majority do so within the first five years after treatment. Yet there is a chance that cancer will return at a later time. Due to this reason, doctors cannot say with certainty that you are, 'cured.' The majority of doctors may say,' there are no signs of cancer at this time.'
Due to the chance that cancer may return, a doctor will monitor you for several years and perform tests to look for signs of cancer's return. A doctor will also look for signs of late side-effects from the cancer treatments you receive.
The University of Arizona Cancer Center (UACC)
The University of Arizona Cancer Center (UACC) was founded in the year 1976 as a division of the University of Arizona's College of Medicine and is now a free-standing center of excellence at the University of Arizona Health Sciences Center. It became an NCI-designated cancer center in 1978 and received Comprehensive Cancer Center status in the year 1990. UACC developed a scientific program in cancer control and prevention in the 1980's, with special emphasis on the following forms of cancer:
UACC is also a translational center that has developed a range of new cancer treatment and preventative agents and has spun off more than seventeen corporations. The Center's basic, translational/clinical and cancer prevention research is carried out in four scientific programs:
Specific research projects include ovarian and breast cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer, lymphoma, gastrointestinal cancers and melanoma/skin cancer. To serve the diverse population of Arizona and the Southwest, UACC established a Cancer Health Disparities Institute to concentrate on cancers in under-served Native American and Hispanic populations. The Institute provides research and training opportunities for investigators proposing research, or planning to work in under-served communities.
UACC hosts a Cancer Biology Graduate Interdisciplinary Program. The program draws faculty from fourteen academic departments and five colleges across the University of Arizona. The Center's research is conducted in Phoenix and Tucson. There are also greater than a dozen research and educational offices throughout Arizona state, as well as affiliate sites in Colorado and Mexico. UACC has seventy-three research laboratories where three-hundred doctors and scientists conduct collaborative research.
Using a research-driven and evidence-based approach, people at UACC are treated in multidisciplinary, disease site oriented clinics by teams of doctors and other health care professionals. The Center's hospital affiliates are the University of Arizona Medical Center in Tucson and Dignity Health St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix.
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