What Is the Most Survivable Cancer?

Medically Reviewed on 2/28/2022

Most of the cancers, if diagnosed and treated in early stages, are definitely survivable.
Most of the cancers, if diagnosed and treated in the early stages, are definitely survivable.

Most of the cancers, if diagnosed and treated in the early stages, are definitely survivable. The main issue is timely detection. Many types of cancer are still very difficult to detect in the early stages because of their location, vague symptoms, and late reporting by patients. Higher survival rates are large because of several factors including not only early detection but also better treatment approaches. Treatment options have been revolutionized. A few decades ago, surgery and chemotherapy were the main treatment. However, now many more options are available such as immunotherapy and targeted drugs, hormone therapy, and radiation therapy.

According to the American Cancer Society, below is the list of survivable types of cancer, provided they are detected in stage I or localized stage.

Sr. No. (From most to least) Type of cancer Patients expected to survive five years after their diagnosis (percent)
1 Prostate cancer 99
2 Thyroid cancer 98
3 Testicular cancer 97
4 Melanoma (Skin cancer) 94
5 Female breast cancer 91
6 Hodgkin lymphoma (blood cancer of the lymphocytes) 88
7 Cancer of the uterus 83
8 Bladder cancer 78
9 Kidney and renal pelvis 75
10 Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (blood cancer) 74
11 Cancer of the cervix 69
12 Cancer of the oral cavity and pharynx 68
13 Colon and rectal cancer 66
14 Leukemia (Blood cancer) 65
15 Larynx 62
16 Myeloma (White blood cell cancer) 52
17 Ovarian cancer 48
18 Brain and nervous system cancer 35
19 Stomach cancer 32
20 Esophageal cancer 21
21 Lungs and bronchial cancer 19
22 Liver and bile duct cancer 19
23 Pancreatic cancer 9

What are the most common types of cancer?

Cancer is a leading cause of deaths worldwide. The most common types of cancer include

What are the common causes of cancer?

Cancer arises from mutation of the normal cells into cancer cells in a multistage process. Below are a few common causes of cancer.

  • Genetic factors and a familial history of cancer are one of the important causes of developing cancer.
  • Exposure to ultraviolet and ionizing radiation can lead to cancerous changes in the body.
  • Exposure to asbestos, components of tobacco smoke, aflatoxin (a food contaminant) and arsenic can lead to cancer.
  • Infections from certain viruses (human papillomavirus [HPV] and human immunodeficiency virus [HIV]) are also considered a trigger for developing cancer.
  • Unhealthy diet and lack of physical activity are risk factors for cancer.


Skin Cancer Symptoms, Types, Images See Slideshow

What are the common warning signs of cancer?

Cancer is a medical condition in which the body cells grow out of control and crowd out the normal cells. This makes it hard for the body to work the way it should. Cancer can start at any place in the body—be it the lungs, breast, colon or even blood. Cancer is alike in some way, but it is different in the ways it grows and spreads. Seven common warning signs of cancer are described below.

  1. Changes in bowel or bladder habits: Cancer can change the body’s metabolism. Stomach cancer, pancreatic cancer, colon cancer and ovarian cancer are considered to change bowel and bladder habits in an individual.
  2. A sore that does not heal: A sure sign of skin cancer is a growth that starts to look different or a sore that doesn't heal. The sore may get bigger or thicker with change in color, oddly shaped border and crusts or scabs over the sore that doesn’t heal.
  3. Unusual bleeding or discharge: Blood could be a warning sign of a problem in the urinary tract and digestive tract. Kidney or bladder cancer can cause this symptom.
  4. Thickening or a lump in the breast or elsewhere: This is a hallmark symptom of breast cancer. Any new or changing growths in the breasts or elsewhere shouldn’t be neglected. Sometimes, the lump may be painful and contain blood or fluid.
  5. Indigestion or difficulty swallowing: A constant feeling of a lump in the throat when it is hard can signal esophageal cancer. Individuals should seek urgent medical attention for such conditions because these may restrict the airway.
  6. Extreme fever with night sweats and tiredness: This is a warning sign of cancer. A thorough medical examination may be required to find the cause of this symptom.
  7. Nagging cough or hoarseness: It may be a potential symptom of lung cancer along with or without chest pain, weight loss, hoarseness, fatigue and shortness of breath.

Can an individual survive from cancer?

  • When identified early, cancer is more likely to respond to effective treatment and can result in a greater probability of surviving.
  • Early and periodic screening can identify individuals with abnormalities that are suggestive of specific cancer and help them with an improved treatment outlook.
  • For example, a 50-year-old patient who is a heavy smoker should have regular checkups and, if necessary, should undergo a computed tomography (CT) scan of their lungs every six months to detect any early symptoms of lung cancer.

What is 5-year survival rates for lung cancer?

lung cancer survival rate
The 5-year survival rate of lung cancer is about 17% overall

Lung cancer is the second most common cancer among both men and women. In general, the 5-year survival rates for lung cancer are:

  • About 17% overall.
  • 54% for cases when the disease is limited to the lungs.
  • 27% if the lung cancer has spread to nearby organs or lymph nodes.
  • 4% if cancer has spread to distant organs, such as the liver.
The 5-year survival rates for lung cancer chart
Lung cancer spread/status Survival rate
Overall 17%
Spread to both lungs 54%
Spread to nearby organs or lymph nodes 27%
Spread to distant organs such as the liver 4%

The 5-year survival rate for lung cancer when the disease is localized to one lung is about 60%. However, getting diagnosed at an early stage is extremely rare. Most lung cancers are diagnosed at a more advanced stage, where the survival rate is about 20%. More than half of lung cancer patients die within one year of being diagnosed because the cancer is aggressive, lethal, and often only detected at the advanced stages.

Chances of survival after lung cancer diagnosis depend on the type of lung cancer, age, staging, and whether there is a history of smoking or other comorbidities (presence of other diseases). Therefore, survival rates are determined on a case-by-case basis.

  • If lung cancer is diagnosed at an early stage, the disease may be curable with surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy.
  • However, if diagnosed at an advanced stage, the disease is typically incurable, and chances of survival decrease if cancer has spread to other organs or lymph nodes. 

What are the survival rates for each stage of lung cancer?

Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC)

NSCLC is the most common type of lung cancer, accounting for 80-90% of the cases. The 5-year survival rates for NSCLC are:

  • Stage I
    • Stage IA: 59-73%
    • Stage IB: 43-58%
  • Stage II 
    • Stage IIA: 36-46%
    • Stage IIB: 25-36%
  • Stage III 
    • Stage IIIA: 19-24%
    • Stage IIIB: 7-9%
  • Stage IV
    • 2-13%
    • Survival rates of stage IV NSCLC are extremely low.

Small cell lung cancer (SCLC)

SCLC makes up about 20% of all lung cancer cases and typically occurs in people who smoke or who used to smoke. The cancer forms in the airway, usually in a central location. SCLC is aggressive, spreading quickly throughout the body using the blood and lymphatic (lymph node) systems. The 5-year survival rates for SCLC are:

  • Stage I
    • Stage IA: 40%
    • Stage IB: 20%
  • Stage II
    • Stage IIA: 40%
    • Stage IIB: 20%
  • Stage III
    • Stage IIIA: 15%
    • Stage IIIB: 10%
  • Stage IV
    • 1%
    • Lung cancer tends to get diagnosed only in the late stages. At stage IV, cancer has usually already metastasized to a great extent.

In general, people diagnosed with NSCLC tend to have a slightly better outlook than people with SCLC.

Most people who die of lung cancer are middle-aged or older, and the percentage of lung cancer deaths is the highest among people 65-74 years of age. Overall health can also make a difference. For example, staying physically active and avoiding tobacco smoke after lung cancer treatment can lower the risk of cancer recurrence, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

Though lung cancer remains an extremely deadly type of cancer, there is great hope on the horizon to reduce the fatalities associated with this disease.

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Medically Reviewed on 2/28/2022
Cancer Facts & Figures 2021: https://www.cancer.org/research/cancer-facts-statistics/all-cancer-facts-figures/cancer-facts-figures-2021.html

Warning Signs of Cancer: https://www.afro.who.int/news/7-warning-signs-cancer