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Five-year survival rate

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Title: Five-year survival rate  
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Subject: Gastrointestinal cancer, Lead time bias, Relative survival, Avax Technologies, Survival rate
Collection: Medical Terminology
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Five-year survival rate

The five-year survival rate is a type of survival rate for estimating the prognosis of a particular disease, normally calculated from the point of diagnosis.[1] Lead time bias due to earlier diagnosis can affect interpretation of the five-year survival rate.[2]

There are absolute and relative survival rates; the latter are more useful and commonly used.

Relative and absolute rates

Five-year relative survival rates are more commonly cited in cancer statistics;[3] five-year absolute survival rates may sometimes also be cited.[4]

  • Five-year absolute survival rates describe the percentage of patients that are alive five years after their disease is diagnosed.
  • Five-year relative survival rates describe the percentage of patients with a disease that are alive five years after their disease is diagnosed divided by the percentage of the general population of corresponding sex and age that are alive after five years. Typically, cancer five-year absolute survival rates are well below 100%, reflecting excess mortality among cancer patients compared to the general population. In contrast to five-year absolute survival rates, five-year relative survival rates may also equal or even exceed 100% if cancer patients have the same or even higher survival rates than the general population. This pattern may occur if cancer patients can generally be cured, or if patients diagnosed with cancer are otherwise more privileged (e.g., in terms of socioeconomic factors or access to medical care) than the general population.[5]
The fact that relative survival rates above 100% were estimated for some groups of patients appears counter-intuitive on first view. It is unlikely that occurrence of prostate cancer would increase chances of survival compared to the general population. A more plausible explanation is that this pattern reflects a selection effect of PSA screening, as screening tests tend to be used less often by socially disadvantaged population groups, who, in general, also have higher mortality.[5]


Five-year survival rates can be used to compare the effectiveness of treatments. Use of 5-year survival statistics is more useful in aggressive diseases that have a shorter life expectancy following diagnosis (such as lung cancer) and less useful in cases with a long life expectancy such as prostate cancer.

Improvements in rates are sometimes attributed to improvements in diagnosis, rather than improvements in prognosis.[6]

To compare treatments (independent of diagnostics) it may be better to consider survival from reaching a certain stage of the disease or its treatment.

Analysis performed against the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results database (SEER) facilitates calculation of Five-year survival rates.[7][8]


  1. ^ "Cancer survival rate: A tool to understand your prognosis -". Retrieved 2009-10-11. 
  2. ^ Gordis, Leon (2008). Epidemiology: with STUDENT CONSULT Online Access. Philadelphia: Saunders. p. 318.  
  3. ^ Varricchio, Claudette G. (2004). A cancer source book for nurses. Boston: Jones and Bartlett Publishers. p. 30.  
  4. ^ "ACS :: How Is Colorectal Cancer Staged?". Retrieved 2009-10-11. 
  5. ^ a b Brenner H, Arndt V (January 20, 2005). "Long-term survival rates of patients with prostate cancer in the prostate-specific antigen screening era: population-based estimates for the year 2000 by period analysis" (PDF).  
  6. ^ Welch HG, Schwartz LM, Woloshin S (June 2000). "Are increasing 5-year survival rates evidence of success against cancer?". JAMA 283 (22): 2975–8.  
  7. ^ Gloeckler Ries LA, Reichman ME, Lewis DR, Hankey BF, Edwards BK (2003). "Cancer survival and incidence from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) program". Oncologist 8 (6): 541–52.  
  8. ^ Cosetti M, Yu GP, Schantz SP (April 2008). "Five-year survival rates and time trends of laryngeal cancer in the US population". Arch. Otolaryngol. Head Neck Surg. 134 (4): 370–9.  
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