Can You Live a Long Life With Cancer?

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Yes, it is possible to have a long life with cancer.

Yes, it is possible to have a long life with cancer.

Yes, it is possible to have a long life with cancer. Though being diagnosed with cancer is still presumed as a death sentence, most cancers are treatable. Millions of people with cancer are living in the United States.

The survival rate mostly depends on:

  • The type of cancer one has.
  • If cancer has a particular genetic component that makes it resistant to treatment.
  • The time at which treatment is sought; the earlier the better.
  • How well the type of cancer responds to the given treatment.
  • How well the body can tolerate chemo and radiation therapies.
  • How much it has spread locally and to other organs.

Every person is unique, and the survival rate of each cancer person is different. There are various tools to determine the survival rate with a particular cancer type. However, this cannot predict exactly what will happen to a person. Discuss with the oncologist (cancer specialist) the chances of a cure and survival.

Generally, doctors use 5-year survival statistics. This data refer to the people who are alive 5 years after the diagnosis of cancer. Many people live much longer than 5 years after their cancer diagnosis. The term does not mean a person will only survive for 5 years. For example, 90% of people with breast cancer will be alive 5 years after the diagnosis of cancer.

In some people, cancer does come back (reappear), and they will need further treatment. Some may get only one type of cancer whereas some cancer patients develop a second type of cancer due to chemo or radiation therapy, which they receive for their first cancer.

Many doctors are cautious about using the term “cure” during cancer treatment because undetected cancer cells may remain in the body after treatment. This may cause cancer to return. Therefore, generally, doctors use the term “5-year survival rate.”

Statistics on the 5-year survival rate in cancer keep getting updated. So, doctors may use survival rates for people diagnosed with cancer in 2009 to people who were diagnosed with cancer in 2017. Cancer treatments are improving all the time; therefore, the outcome is definitely better than it would have been in 2009. Discuss with the oncologist about the change in the risk percentage, the latest statistics, and reduction in risk after the completion of treatment.

Who has higher chances of developing a second type of cancer?

Some cancer survivors get anxious about developing a different type of cancer. While this is not common, some people develop second cancer. This cancer may not be related to the first one. There are higher chances of developing a second type of cancer if the person has:

  • Been exposed to:
    • Cigarette smoke.
    • Cancer-causing agents, such as certain chemicals.
    • Ultraviolet radiation from the sun (especially skin cancer).
    • Solarium.
  • Advanced age.
  • Faulty inherited genes (5% cancer).
  • Received cancer treatment in childhood.
  • Unhealthy lifestyle, such as:
  • Excessive weight.




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Medically Reviewed on 4/9/2021

References

Cancer Council Victoria. Life After Treatment. https://www.cancervic.org.au/living-with-cancer/life-after-treatment/fear-of-the-cancer-coming-
back#:~:text=Many%20people%20live%20much%20longer,develop%20another%20type%20of%20cancer.

American Cancer Society. Signs and Symptoms of Cancer. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-
basics/signs-and-symptoms-of-cancer.html

American Society of Clinical Oncology. Living With Chronic Cancer. https://www.cancer.net/survivorship/living-with-chronic-cancer

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