Statistics and outlook for bowel cancer
This page is about statistics and what they can tell us about the outlook for people with bowel cancer. There is information about
Statistics and outlook for bowel cancer
Outlook is also called prognosis and means your chances of getting better. With bowel cancer the likely outcome depends on how advanced the cancer is when it is diagnosed.
Lower down this page we have quite detailed information about the likely outcome of different stages of bowel cancer. The statistics we use are taken from a variety of sources, including the opinions and experiences of the experts who check our information. The statistics are intended as a general guide only. For the more complete picture in your case, you’d have to speak to your own specialist. We include statistics because people ask for them, but not everyone wants to read this type of information.
How reliable are cancer statistics?
No statistics can tell you what will happen to you. Your cancer is unique. The same type of cancer can grow at different rates in different people. The statistics cannot tell you about the different treatments people may have had, or how that treatment may have affected their prognosis. There are many individual factors that will affect your treatment and your outlook.
You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the treating bowel cancer section.
This page contains quite detailed information about the survival rates of different stages of bowel cancer. We have included it because many people have asked us for this. But not everyone who is diagnosed with a cancer wants to read this type of information. If you are not sure whether you want to know at the moment or not, then perhaps you might like to skip this page for now. You can always come back to it.
Please note that no national statistics are available for different stages of cancer or treatments that people may have had. The statistics we present here are pulled together from a variety of different sources, including the opinions and experience of the experts who check our information. We give statistics because people ask us for them. But they are only intended as a general guide and cannot tell you about your individual outcome.
We have another section explaining about cancer statistics and also about incidence, mortality and survival. Unless you are very familiar with medical statistics it might help to read this before you read the statistics below.
Remember that 5 year survival and 10 year survival are terms that doctors use. This doesn't mean you will only live 5 or 10 years. 10 year survival relates to the number of people in research who were still alive 10 years after diagnosis. Doctors follow what happens to people for 10 years or more after treatment in cancer research studies. This is because there is only a small chance that a cancer will come back more than 10 years after treatment. They do not like to say these people are cured because there is that small chance. So they use the term 10 year survival instead.
As with many other types of cancer, the outcome of colon or rectal cancer depends on how advanced it is when it is diagnosed. In other words, the stage of your cancer.
Of all the people in England and Wales diagnosed with colon or rectal cancer, more than 50 out of every 100 (50%) live for at least 5 years after their diagnosis. Recent estimates show that about 46 out of every 100 people with rectal cancer (46%) and nearly 50 out of every 100 with colon cancer (50%) live for at least 10 years. This has improved a lot over the past 30 years.
The statistics below relate to people having surgery. About 80 out of every 100 people with colorectal cancer (80%) have surgery intended to cure them. But the cancer comes back in about half of these people.
The links below take you down the page to specific information about the outlook for each stage of bowel cancer. We don't know the stage for about 34 out of every 100 people (34%) at the time they are diagnosed with bowel cancer.
Stage 1 bowel cancer is also called Dukes' A. This means the cancer is only in the innermost lining of the colon or rectum, or it has spread into the inner muscle layer of the bowel wall. As this is a very early stage cancer it has a high cure rate. After surgery more than 9 out of 10 patients (93%) will live for more than 5 years. Unfortunately, at the moment fewer than 9 out of every 100 patients (9%) diagnosed with colorectal cancer have stage 1. As bowel cancer screening has been introduced across the UK, we hope that more people will have their cancer diagnosed early.
Stage 2 bowel cancer is also called Dukes' B. This means that the cancer has grown through the muscle layer of the bowel wall. About a quarter (24%) of people with colorectal cancer are diagnosed at this stage. Depending on various factors, after surgery more than three quarters (up to 77%) of people with stage 2 colorectal cancer can expect to live longer than 5 years.
Stage 3 bowel cancer is also called Dukes' C. This means the cancer has spread into the lymph nodes surrounding the bowel. Roughly 23 out of every 100 people (23%) with colorectal cancer are diagnosed at this stage. The outcome depends on the number of lymph nodes that contain cancer cells. After surgery almost half of those with Stage 3 bowel cancer (48%) will live for at least 5 years.
Stage 4 bowel cancer is also sometimes called Dukes' D. This means that the cancer has spread from the bowel to another part of the body. In roughly 9 out of every 100 people (9%) with colorectal cancer, the cancer has already spread to another part of their body when they are diagnosed. For this advanced cancer the survival rates are lower. With this stage, about 6 people out of every 100 (6%) will live for at least 5 years after they are diagnosed.
If the cancer has spread into the liver but the areas in the liver can be removed with surgery, some recent studies have shown 5 year survival rates of 25 to 40%.
No statistics can tell you what will happen to you. Your cancer is unique. So statistics can only give a rough idea of what may happen to you. The available statistics are not detailed enough to tell you about the different treatments people may have had. They also can't tell how that treatment may have affected their outlook. Some treatments may help people to live longer as well as relieving symptoms. There are many individual factors that will affect your treatment and prognosis.
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