Being diagnosed with cancer, or having a loved one diagnosed with cancer can be one of the scariest moments in one’s life. Cancer is such a loaded word and after the diagnosis, the most common questions are about what can be done, how the treatments will effect the cancer, and of course, how long does one have to live.
These are natural questions to have and the good news is that for most cancers found early, life expectancy is high. Many forms of cancer can be treated and go into remission; a patient in recovery can live a long and healthy life without the recurrence of cancer.
However, not all cancer is discovered this early and some forms of cancer are incredibly aggressive. These are the forms of cancer that scare us most: those that have progressed rapidly or those that are hard to treat. The life expectancy for people with these forms of cancer are a different story. They may be treatable and go into remission, or they may be terminal, which means that the patient will perish from the disease.
As noted above, the life expectancy of someone with cancer depends on a number of different factors. What kind of cancer does one have? How far has the cancer progressed? What stage of cancer is it? If the cancer has metastasized, or spread to other parts of the body, the cancer is far more difficult to treat. Also, the patient’s age and overall health will have an effect on the person’s life expectancy.
When someone is given a terminal prognosis, their life expectancy is generally in terms of months or weeks — if they are lucky, years. However, survival rates are just general rates. A person is not guaranteed to make it that long, nor are they necessarily going to perish within a given time frame, it depends on a lot of different factors.
These numbers are useful, however, in that they give a patient and their family a general time frame, and this gives them the ability to plan: to plan for the future, for treatment options, and perhaps without the presence of a loved one.
The 5-year survival rates for many forms of cancer are on the rise. Improvements in treatments, detection technologies, and lifestyle habits are improving life expectancy for many different types of cancer. Being diagnosed with cancer can be frightening, but understanding the nature of the disease and one’s life expectancy are natural and important questions to ask.