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Kidney Cancer: Asking About Your Prognosis

Kidney Cancer: Asking About Your Prognosis

A prognosis is a calculated guess about how or whether a person will recover from a disease. It’s a question many people have when they learn they have cancer.  

Making a choice

The decision to ask about your prognosis is a personal one. It is up to you to decide how much you want to know. 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.

A health care provider who is most familiar with you 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 prognosis may change. A favorable prognosis can change if the cancer progresses. An unfavorable one can change if a treatment is successful.

What goes into a prognosis

Your health care provider will consider all the things that could affect the cancer and its treatment. Your health care provider will look at risk estimates about the cancer. These are based on what researchers have found out over many years about thousands of people with melanoma. When possible, your health care provider will use statistics for groups of people whose situations are most like yours, to estimate your prognosis.

If your cancer is likely to respond well to treatment, your health care provider will say you have a favorable prognosis. If your cancer is likely to be hard to control, your prognosis may be less favorable. It is important to keep in mind that a prognosis states what is probable. It is not a prediction of what will definitely happen. No health care provider can be fully certain about an outcome.

Your chance of recovery depends on:

  • The type and location of the cancer

  • The stage of the disease

  • Your overall health

Understanding survival rates

Survival rates show the percentage of people who live for a certain 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 5 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

Talking with your health care provider

You can ask your health care provider about survival rates and other information. Remember that statistics are based on large groups of people and cannot be used to predict what will happen to a certain patient. No 2 people are exactly alike, and treatment and responses to treatment vary.


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