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. That 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 published facts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Cancer Society.

Is Cancer the Most Common Cause of Death in the U.S.?

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

In women, the most common 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 U.S., an estimated 606,520 people will die from cancer in 2020. This equates to 1,660 people dying of cancer each day in 2020.

Percentage of People Alive 5 Years After Being Diagnosed With Cancer

Approximately 69% of people, or 69 out of 100 people, diagnosed with cancer between the years 2009 and 2015 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%, 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 guide 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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  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National center for health statistics. Updated November 29, 2018.

  2. American Cancer Society. Cancer facts & figures 2020.

  3. American Cancer Society. Cancer statistics center.