©2019 by Northwest Sarcoma Foundation.

HOW RELIABLE ARE CANCER STATISTICS?

People who have been diagnosed with cancer are naturally concerned about their outlook for the future. It is natural to want to try to use statistics to work out your chances of being cured. Remember that statistical descriptions are based on large numbers of patients. They cannot be used to predict what will happen to you because no 2 people are alike. You and your cancer are unique. The same type of cancer can grow at different rates in different people for example.

The statistics are not detailed enough to tell you about the different treatments people may have had. And how that treatment may have affected their prognosis. There are many individual factors that will determine your treatment and prognosis.

The stage of a cancer tells the doctor how far it has spread. It is important because treatment is often decided according to the stage of a cancer. Your scans will give some information about the stage of your cancer.

There are different ways of staging cancers. The two main ways are the TNM system and number systems.

Generally speaking, the lower the stage, the better the likely overall outcome. This is because a lower stage means a cancer has been caught at an earlier stage and so there is a lower chance of cancer spread. Grade is also taken into account when staging sarcomas. This is because a low grade sarcoma is less likely to spread than a high grade sarcoma.

Staging is determined through the pathology obtained from the biopsy, a tumor's location, size and if the cancer has spread is determined through radiologic imaging: by x-ray, CT scan, MRI scan, whole body bone scan and/or PET Scan. The x-rays and scans are the easiest and fastest to find out where and if the cancer has spread.