A prognosis is a statement about the prospect of surviving and recovering from a disease. It may sound harsh to ask the question, “Can I survive this?” But it’s a question most people have when they learn they have kidney cancer. Unfortunately, there isn’t an easy answer.

The chance that you will recover or have a recurrence depends on the type, grade, and stage of the cancer, and location and size of the tumor. It also depends on your age, general health, and response to treatment.

Before discussing your prognosis with you, your doctor will consider all the things that could affect your disease and treatment. Your doctor will then predict what seems likely to happen. To do that, the doctor will look at what researchers have found out over many years about thousands of people with your type of cancer. When possible, the doctor will use statistics for groups of people whose situations are most like yours.

If your cancer is likely to respond well to treatment, your doctor will say you have a favorable prognosis. If the cancer is likely to be hard to control, your prognosis may be unfavorable. It is important to keep in mind, though, that a prognosis states what is probable. It is not a prediction of what will happen. No doctor can be absolutely certain about the outcome.

Coping With My Prognosis and With Statistics About the Cancer I Have

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 statistical information confusing and frightening. Or they may think it is too general to be useful. The doctor who is most familiar with your situation 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 person’s prognosis may change. A favorable prognosis can change if the cancer progresses. An unfavorable one can change if treatment is successful. The decision to ask about your prognosis is a personal one. It is up to you to decide how much you want to know.

What Does the 5-Year Survival Rate Mean?

Survival rates show the percentage of people who live for a specific period of time after being told they have cancer. The rates are specific to people with a certain type and stage of cancer. Often, statistics refer to the 5-year survival rate. That’s the percentage of people who are alive 5 years after diagnosis. The 5-year rate includes people who:

  • are free of disease

  • have few or no signs or symptoms of cancer

  • are having treatment for cancer

Many of these people live much longer than 5 years after diagnosis. Because the statistics we have for 5-year rates are based on people diagnosed and initially treated more than 5 years ago, it’s possible that the outlook could be better today. Recently diagnosed people often have a better outlook because of improvements in treatment.

Survival rates are based on large groups of people. They cannot be used to predict what will happen to a particular person. No 2 people are exactly alike, and treatment and responses to treatment vary greatly.

Medical Reviewer: [Alteri, Rick MD, Appleman, Leonard J. MD, Foster, Sara M. RN, MPH, Wood, Laura RN, MSN, OCN] Last Annual Review Date: 2011-02-01T00:00:00-07:00 Copyright: © 2007 CancerSource, 280 Summer Street, 9th Floor, Boston, MA 02210. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare provider's instructions.