Vaginal Cancer Survival Rates
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If you have received a vaginal cancer diagnosis, the first thing a doctor will try to do is give you a prognosis. A prognosis or outlook refers to the statistical likelihood of you surviving the disease. As with any type of cancer, the outcome will depend on how advanced the cancer is (known as staging). The earlier the vaginal cancer stage, the better the prognosis. The American figures below list the 5 year survival rates for cancer of the vagina. The information is from the U.S. National Cancer Institute's SEER database and is based on women who were diagnosed with the disease between 1990 and 2004. The statistics refer to the amount of women still alive at the end of a period of 5 years. It must be noted that many go on to live much longer than 5 years and may even be cured. Some patients find this information useful, while others may not want to know.
Statistics cannot predict what will happen to you personally. They are based on the outcome of a large number of people with the disease but cannot always predict what will happen in an individual case. Every woman's cancer is unique and her individual circumstances will affect her outcome. Her overall health, the quality of vaginal cancer treatment she receives and her response to treatment will all play a role. In fact doctors have a way of predicting how a woman will respond to therapy and it is called 'performance status' (PS). A woman's PS level will help predict her response to chemotherapy for example and her likely quality of life during and after treatment. There are different standard measurements for PS; the most commonly used is the ECOG Score which grades the patient from 1 to 4 as follows:
Performance Status Levels
Generally survival rates appear to be better for women with cancer limited to a third or less of the vagina. Tumors which have spread to the entire vagina tend to result in a poorer prognosis. Additionally women from poorer socioeconomic families have a worse survival rate than women from wealthier backgrounds. This may be related to healthcare access. Furthermore, women are more likely to survive vaginal cancer is they are aged under 60 when they are diagnosed, probably because younger women tend to be generally healthier and stronger. Those who show no or few symptoms of vaginal cancer when they are diagnosed are also likely to live longer, but this is probably because fewer symptoms indicate earlier stages of the disease. The type of cancer present is also an important factor. Vaginal melanoma, which is very rare, has a poor outcome with only about 15 to 20 percent of women diagnosed with it living beyond 5 years.
Once doctors have diagnosed the presence of cancer (by biopsy) they will want to learn as much as possible about the type of tumor present as this will help determine the best course of cancer treatment and long-term outlook. To do this, they will give the cancer a histologic grade. Doctors use the letter 'G' and a number to identify how the tumor cells look under a microscope. The closer the tumor resembles healthy normal cells, the lower the grade (and the less dangerous it usually is).
5 Year Survival Rates By Stage (United Kingdom)
Research indicates that participating in cancer clinical trials may improve a person's prognosis. Scientists are not sure why this is but it may be because patients are monitored more closely during a trial. They are likely to have more scans and blood tests for example. Trials testing experimental treatments are more likely to be considered by patients with recurrent vaginal cancer.
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