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Colorectal cancer

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Survival statistics for colorectal cancer

Survival statistics for colorectal cancer are very general estimates and must be interpreted very carefully. Because these statistics are based on the experience of groups of people, they cannot be used to predict a particular person’s chances of survival.

There are many different ways to measure and report cancer survival statistics. Your doctor can explain the statistics for colorectal cancer and what they mean to you.

Net survival

Net survival represents the probability of surviving cancer in the absence of other causes of death. It is used to give an estimate of the percentage of people who will survive their cancer.

In Canada, the 5-year net survival for colorectal cancer is 64%. This means that, on average, about 64% of people diagnosed with colorectal cancer will survive for at least 5 years.

Relative survival

Relative survival looks at how likely people with cancer are to survive after their diagnosis compared to people in the general population who do not have cancer, but who share similar characteristics (such as age and sex).

Survival by stage

Survival varies with the stage of colorectal cancer. The following factors can also affect survival for colorectal cancer.

  • Generally, the earlier colorectal cancer is diagnosed and treated, the better the outcome.
  • There are many effective treatments available for colorectal cancer.
  • The outcome for advanced colorectal cancer is better if surgery can be done to remove the primary tumour and metastases.

There are no specific Canadian survival statistics available for the TNM stages of colorectal cancer. The following information comes from a variety of sources and may include statistics from other countries. Survival statistics are divided into groups based on if the cancer is localized, regional or distant.

Colorectal cancer survival
Stage5-year relative survival

Localized (cancer is only in the colon or rectum)

90%

Regional (cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes)

71%

Distant (cancer has spread to lymph nodes or organs in another part of the body)

13%

Questions about survival

People with cancer should talk to their doctor about their prognosis. Prognosis depends on many factors, including:

  • your health history
  • the type of cancer
  • the stage
  • certain characteristics of the cancer
  • the treatments chosen
  • how the cancer responds to treatment

Only a doctor familiar with these factors can put all of this information together with survival statistics to arrive at a prognosis.

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