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Can I Survive Cervical Cancer? What Is My Prognosis?

A prognosis is a statement about the prospect of surviving and recovering from a disease. It may sound hard to ask, “Can I survive this?” But it’s a question most women have when they learn they have cervical cancer. Unfortunately, there isn’t an easy answer and there's no sure way to determine your prognosis.

Your chance of recovery depends on these things:

  • Type and location of the cancer

  • Stage of the disease

  • How quickly the cancer is likely to grow and spread

  • Your age

  • Your general health

  • How you respond to treatment

Before discussing your prognosis with you, your doctor will consider all the things that could affect the cancer and its 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 cancer. When possible, the doctor will use statistics for groups of women whose situations are most like yours to make a prediction.

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 definitely happen. No doctor can be absolutely certain about the outcome.

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 statistics confusing and frightening. Or they might 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 five-year survival rate for cervical cancer mean?

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

  • Are free of disease

  • Have few or no signs or symptoms of cancer

  • Are still undergoing treatment for cancer

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

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


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