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- Fear of the cancer returning
- Survival statistics
Even when there is no evidence of active cancer in the body, many doctors are wary of using the term “cure” because undetected cancer cells can remain in the body after treatment, causing the cancer to return. Instead they may talk about the “five-year survival rate”. Australia has among the best survival rates for cancer in the world.
The five-year survival rate is determined by the percentage of people alive five years after diagnosis. It does not mean you will only survive for five years. For example, about 91 out of 100 people (91%) with breast cancer will be alive five years after they are diagnosed. Many of these people live much longer than five years after diagnosis.
How accurate are the statistics?
Five-year cancer survival rates are a guide only. They generally include everyone with a particular type of cancer, at all stages and grades of the disease. For most cancers, people diagnosed with early-stage disease (cancer that is small and has not spread) are likely to have a much better outlook than people diagnosed with advanced disease (cancer that has spread to other parts of the body). With cancer treatments improving all the time, your outcome (prognosis) is likely to be better than the statistics currently available as they take many years to obtain.
Prof Michael Jefford, Medical Oncologist and Director, Australian Cancer Survivorship Centre, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Lucy Bailey, Nurse Counsellor, Cancer Council Queensland; Philip Bullas, Consumer; Dr Kate Gunn, Clinical Psychologist and Senior Research Fellow, Department of Rural Health, University of South Australia, SA; Rosemerry Hodgkin, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Prof David Joske, Clinical Haematologist, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital and Clinical Professor of Medicine, The University of Western Australia, WA; Kim Kerin-Ayres, Clinical Nurse Consultant, Cancer Survivorship, Concord Hospital, NSW; Sally Littlewood, Physiotherapist, Seymour Health, VIC; Georgina Lohse, Social Worker, GV Health,VIC; Melanie Moore, Exercise Physiologist and Clinical Supervisor, University of Canberra Cancer Wellness Clinic, ACT; June Savva, Senior Clinician Dietitian, Nutrition and Dietetics, Monash Cancer Centre, Monash Health, VIC; Dr Elysia Thornton-Benko, Specialist General Practitioner and Research Fellow, University of New South Wales, NSW; Prof Janette Vardy, Medical Oncologist, Concord Cancer Centre and Professor of Cancer Medicine, The University of Sydney, NSW; Lyndell Wills, Consumer.
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