Staging of the cancer holds the key to your five year survival rate from cancer

When new clients approach me with a new case concerning a delay in cancer diagnosis, they usually have not the slightest idea about their prognosis or five year survival rate. Perhaps persons diagnosed with cancer are afraid to learn the truth about their future, or the doctors prefer to keep them in the dark about their prognosis.  While it is certainly the prerogative of all patients to be ignorant of their cancer prognosis, I can't believe this is what they really want.

Regardless of the kind of cancer (whether lung, bladder, brain or colon cancer), the question to your oncologist is always the same at the time of diagnosis: "What is the stage of my cancer?"  For the different kinds of cancer, the "stages" are very similar. 

Stage one is the earliest stage of cancer and offers the most promising five year survival rate.  Stage one cancer means that the tumor is confined to the area in the body where it originated and when surgically removed, the cancer has a low likelihood of recurrence.  "Recurrence" means that the cancer cells are microscopically present within the patient's body after the surgical removal of the tumor. The hope of all patients is that there cancer is stage one.

Stage two is an early stage of cancer where the tumor has grown significantly, but has not spread outside its original location.  For example, with stage two colon cancer, the tumor has grown through a portion of the wall of the colon, but has not extended beyond the colon wall to the lymphatic system.  Stage two colon cancer involves a better than 50% chance of survival five years after the diagnosis.

Stage three is a more advanced stage of cancer, where the tumor has spread beyond its original location into the lymphatic system or bloodstream. When the cancer cells advance beyond their original location into the bloodstream, this significantly increases the risk that the cancer will spread to other parts of the body.  The five year survival rate for stage three cancer is usually less than 50%.

Stage four is the most advanced stage of cancer.  In stage four cancer, the tumor has metastasized, or spread to a distant organ.  For example, if the original location of the tumor is in the lung and there is evidence of cancer in the brain, the patient has primary lung cancer with metastasis to the brain.  In this scenario, the brain tumor is a "secondary tumor". The five year survival rate for stage four cancer is dismal, often less than 10%.

When you have a family member diagnosd with cancer, the most important question you can ask is: What is the stage of the cancer?  Once you know the stage of the cancer, you will be able to determine the five year survival rate. 

Is it better to be left in the dark about your future, not in my opinion.  The first step in learning more about your future is to get the stage of your cancer.  Insist that your oncologist give you an answer when you ask about the stage of your cancer.