Oral cancer

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Survival statistics for oral cancer

Survival statistics for oral 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 oral 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 oral (mouth) cancer is 63%. This means that, on average, about 63% of people diagnosed with oral cancer will survive for at least 5 years.

Survival by stage of tumour

Survival varies with each stage of oral cancer. Generally, the earlier oral cancer is diagnosed and treated, the better the outcome.

There are effective treatments available for oral cancer and it often responds well to cancer treatment. But smoking during radiation therapy reduces the effectiveness of treatment and lowers survival rates compared to people who stop smoking or don’t smoke.

There are no specific Canadian statistics available for the different stages and locations of oral cancer. The following information comes from a variety of sources. It may include statistics from other countries that are likely to have similar outcomes as in Canada.

5-year relative survival by stage and tumour site
StageLipTongueFloor of mouth

Early stage or localized (stage 1 or 2)

93%

78%

75%

Locally advanced or regional (stage 3, 4A or 4B)

48%

63%

38%

Metastatic (stage 4C)

52%

36%

20%

Questions about survival

Talk to your doctor about your prognosis. A 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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