When is a cancer patient considered "cured" after the surgical removal of a tumor?

When a tumor is surgically removed and cancer patient is given the results of the biopsies of the tumor and the surrounding tissues, most believe that a rosy prognosis means they are "cured" of their cancer.  Wrong!  It is a mistake for any cancer patient to think that they are cured of their cancer until at least five years have passed without any sign of a recurrence of cancer.

With any form of cancer, the patient is not considered cured until there is no sign of cancer on blood tests and imaging studies for five years from the date of the original diagnosis.  When the blood tests and imaging studies show no evidence of cancer for five years after the cancer diagnosis, only then is the patient considered "cured".

What does this mean for you?  If you or a loved one has been "cancer-free" for two or three years after a cancer diagnosis, REMAIN VIGILANT about checking for a return of cancer. 

When cancer is present, its rate of growth is highly variable.  This means that cancer may be indolent and slow growing for long periods of time, and unpredictably begin growing rapidly and aggressively.  This is why cancer may not be visible on imaging studies for the first couple of years after the cancer diagnosis, and then out of nowhere, the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

After all imaging studies, such as a full-body PET scan, show no evidence of a recurrence of cancer five years from the date of the original cancer diagnosis, only then can you ask your oncologist, "Am I cured?"  It is likely that your oncologist will tell you what you have been waiting for five years to hear, "Yes, you are cured."  Only then can you go home with a smile on your face.