Basic Cancer Survival Statistics

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By knowing some basic statistics on cancer survival, you can understand your chance of living through cancer if you or a loved one is diagnosed. This all being said, it's important to remember that a statistic is just an approximation — it does not take into account factors unique to you. So it cannot tell you precisely how long you or your loved one will live with cancer.

These statistics are based on facts from the American Cancer Society and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC.

Is Cancer the Most Common Cause of Death in the US?

No. Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the US, behind heart disease. The most common cause of cancer in men is prostate cancer, but the most common cause of cancer death in men is lung cancer.

In women, the most common cause of cancer is breast cancer, and like men, the most common cause of cancer death is lung cancer.

How Many People Die of Cancer Each Day?

According to the American Cancer Society, in the United States in 2018, an estimated 609,640 people died from cancer. This equates to 1,670 people dying of cancer each day in 2018.

Percentage of People Alive 5 Years After Being Diagnosed With Cancer

Approximately 68 percent of people, or 68 out of 100 people, diagnosed with cancer between the years 2004 and 2010 were alive five years after their diagnosis. This is higher than people who were diagnosed with cancer between the years 1975 and 1977. Between these years, 49 out of 100 people, or 49 percent, were alive five years later.

With this statistic, it's important to understand that it does not differentiate between people who are in remission — either permanently or temporarily —or people who are still receiving cancer treatment five years after their cancer diagnosis. It simply is telling us how many people are alive after being diagnosed with cancer, regardless of their treatment, quality of life, etc.

Advances in cancer treatment made in the last decade may improve individual survivor rates. However, the scientific data has not caught up yet. Statistics examine a large population and take time to formulate.

In addition, this statistic does not take into account that some cancers are detected early when they may have gone undiagnosed in the absence of screening. For example, some prostate cancers are detected early when a man would have never known about it, and cancer would never have led to his death. This means that the man would have lived anyway, regardless of a cancer diagnosis and treatment.

What This Means for Me or My Loved One With Cancer

While basic cancer survival statistics can be helpful in understanding your cancer outcome, please approach them with caution and with the guidance of your doctor.

Remember too, statistics do not take into account individual factors, which could positively or negatively affect your cancer course. So don't get too bogged down or confused about cancer numbers — speak with your cancer health team and focus on your therapy and well-being.

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