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About statistics

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This page tells you about statistics. There is information on

 

What statistics can tell you

Statistics are collected on many aspects of cancer. We have statistics about 

  • How many people are diagnosed in the UK with particular types of cancer
  • The outlook (prognosis) for different types of cancer
  • How many people are living with cancer in the UK at the moment

Understanding statistics can be very important if you are trying to find out about new cancer treatments or looking into other treatment options. Statistics can tell you whether one treatment is likely to work better than another for a particular type of cancer. 

There is more about this in the page about looking at research.

Understanding statistics a little better can help you to understand more about what your doctor tells you too. Many different statistics are collected about cancer and treatments. 

We help you to know what the statistics mean on our page explaining incidence, survival and mortality statistics.

 

What statistics can't tell you

Statistics can't tell you exactly what will happen to you personally. They are general information that apply to a group or population of people from which the statistics were calculated. This could be tens, hundreds or thousands of people. 

Statistics may be able to tell you what the chances of something happening to you are. For example, if 65% of people with your type of cancer responded to a treatment, then there is a two out of three chance that you will too. But no one can say definitely whether your cancer will respond to that treatment.

Statistics can't usually fit your situation exactly. They are usually much more general than people think. 

For example: A patient may ask her doctor

"What are the survival statistics for someone with a grade 3, stage 2 breast cancer who has had a lumpectomy, 3 weeks of radiotherapy, 6 months of E-CMF chemotherapy and has been taking tamoxifen for 2 years?". 

Statistics in that sort of detail usually don't exist. 

Survival statistics available are usually overall statistics for a particular cancer type, although now they are sometimes available for different stages of a cancer.

Individual research studies will have produced statistics on bits of that scenario. For example, researchers have shown that premenopausal women who have a course of chemotherapy after surgery have a lower chance of their breast cancer coming back.

To produce the sort of detail the patient above asked for, you would have to find several hundred women in that exact situation to test the chemotherapy on, and then follow their progress for some years, to see how they did. And even then, you would only get generalised statistics, because they would probably have several different types of breast cancer. And the women may well have had radiotherapy in different ways, or at different doses. And are they oestrogen receptor positive? How old are they? Are they pre or post menopausal? So, treatment situations can be very complicated.

 

Statistics and you

You and your situation are unique. As there is no one else quite like you, then no statistics are able to give you exact answers about the outcome of your particular cancer. But statistics can be used by you and your doctor to help choose which treatments are most likely to benefit you. 

Some doctors use computer programmes that compare the results of many trials to give statistics on the likely benefits of different treatments. One that you might hear mentioned is called Adjuvant! Online. 

So, in some situations, using computer programmes can give doctors some information about how well particular treatments may work for you.

 

Detailed information about UK cancer statistics

For very detailed information about statistics for each type of cancer go to the cancer stats section.

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Updated: 21 November 2014