Prognosis is a word your healthcare team may use to describe the likely outcome from cancer and cancer treatment. A prognosis is a calculated guess. It’s a question many people have when they learn they or their child has cancer.
The decision to ask about your or your child's prognosis is a personal one. It’s up to you to decide how much you want to know. Some people find it easier to cope and plan ahead when they know the prognosis and the statistics for how well a treatment might work. Other people find statistics confusing and frightening. Or they might think statistics are too general to be useful.
A healthcare provider who is most familiar with the situation is in the best position to discuss the prognosis with you and explain what the statistics may mean. At the same time, you should keep in mind that a prognosis can change. Cancer and cancer treatment outcomes are hard to predict. For instance, a favorable prognosis (which means a person is likely going to do well) can change if the cancer spreads to key organs or doesn’t respond to treatment. An unfavorable prognosis can change, too. This can happen if treatment shrinks and controls the cancer so it doesn’t grow or spread.
When figuring out your or your child’s prognosis, your healthcare provider will consider all the things that could affect the cancer and its treatment. Your healthcare provider will look at risk estimates for the type and stage (extent) of the cancer. These estimates are based on what results researchers have seen over many years in other people with the same type and stage of cancer.
If the cancer is likely to respond well to treatment, your healthcare provider might say the prognosis is favorable. If the cancer is likely to be hard to control, the prognosis may be less favorable. It’s important to keep in mind that a prognosis states what’s likely or probable, but it is not a prediction of what will definitely happen. No healthcare provider can be fully certain about an outcome.
The prognosis depends mainly on:
The location and size of the cancer
The stage (extent) of the cancer
A person's age and overall health
How well the cancer responds to treatment
Survival rates show what portion of people live for a certain length of time after being told they have cancer. The rates are grouped for people with certain types and stages of cancer. Many times, the numbers used refer to the 5-year survival rate. That’s how many people are living 5 years after diagnosis. The survival rate includes:
People who are cancer-free
People who still have signs of cancer. These people may or may not be getting treatment for their cancer.
In general, the prognosis for people with Ewing sarcoma tends to be better if the cancer is caught early instead of at a later stage.
Here are the 5-year survival rates for Ewing sarcoma, according to the American Cancer Society:
For cancers that are still localized (just in the area where they started) when they are first found, the 5-year survival rate is about 70%.
Once Ewing sarcoma has metastasized (spread to other parts of the body), the 5-year survival rate is about 15–30%. The survival rate is a little higher if the spread is only to the lungs.
You can ask your healthcare provider about survival rates and what you might expect. But remember that statistics are based on large groups of people. They cannot be used to say what will happen to any person. No two people are exactly alike. Treatment and how well people respond to treatment vary.
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