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Your prognosis is a statement about your prospect for surviving and recovering from a disease. It may be hard to ask, “Can I survive this?” But it’s a question most people have when they learn they have melanoma. Unfortunately, there isn’t an easy answer.
Your chance of recovery depends on:
The type and location of the cancer
The stage of the disease
Your general health
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 provide some risk estimates about the cancer. These estimates will be based on what researchers have found out over many years about thousands of people with melanoma. When possible, your doctor will use statistics for groups of people whose situations are most like yours, to estimate your prognosis.
If the 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 less favorable. It is important to keep in mind, though, that a prognosis states what is probable. It is not a prediction of what will 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 statistical information 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.
Survival rates show the percentage of people who live for a specific length of time after being told they have cancer. The rates are specific to people with a certain type and stage of cancer. Often, statistics refer to the 5-year or the 10-year survival rate. That’s the percentage of people who are living five years or 10 years after diagnosis. The survival rate includes people at these different stages:
People who are free of disease
People who have few or no signs or symptoms of cancer
People who are getting cancer treatment
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