Nasopharyngeal Cancers

Determining Your Prognosis

Your prognosis is a prediction of the outcome of your disease. What is the risk of succumbing to the cancer or the risk of its coming back? These are the big questions on most people’s minds after receiving a diagnosis of throat cancer. Prognosis is based on many factors, and a survival rate is an estimate based on large populations of patients who have been given a similar stage of their throat cancer. There are many specific factors that are unique to each patient that may influence treatment success.

The following aspects of the cancer may affect your prognosis.

Stage This is the most important factor that affects your chances of being cured.
Spread to Lymph NodesSpread of Cancer Cells Outside Lymph Node Capsule This goes along with stage, but even without other factors, if there is spread to lymph nodes in the neck, it’s a worse chance of cure, especially if there is evidence of spread of cancer outside of the lymph node.
Spread into Local Structures Spread into large nerves, vessels, lymphatics or elsewhere might make your prognosis worse.

To give you a percentage chance of cure is difficult without understanding all the details of your cancer, and this is a conversation you’re better off having in person with your doctor. In general, for patients with cancer of the nasopharynx, SEER (Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results) and AJCC (American Joint Committee on Cancer) data show the following:

Estimated Disease-Specific Survival at Five Years Estimated Disease-Specific Survival at Ten Years Estimated Disease-Specific Survival at Five Years
Nasopharynx Cancer(1988-2001) Nasopharynx Cancer(1988-2001) Nasopharynx Cancer(1998-1999)
Stage I 78% 63% 72%
Stage II 64% 52% 64%
Stage III 60% 46% 62%
Stage IV 47% 37% 38%

Estimated Disease-Specific Survival is the percentage of people with a specific cancer who are alive at a given time point, such as five years after diagnosis. It excludes people who may have died from a disease other than their cancer. It is probably the best estimate we have in these large national databases as to the prognosis of a particular type of cancer at each stage.


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