Penile Cancer: Your Chances for Recovery (Prognosis)
What is a prognosis?
Prognosis is the word your healthcare team may use to describe your chances of recovering from cancer. Or it may mean your likely outcome from cancer and cancer treatment. A prognosis is a calculated guess. It’s a question many people have when they learn they have cancer.
Making a choice
The decision to ask about your prognosis is a personal one. It’s up to you to decide how much you want to know. Some people find it easier to cope and plan ahead when they know their prognosis and the statistics for how well a treatment might work. Other people find statistics confusing and frightening. Or they might think statistics are too general to be useful.
A healthcare provider who is most familiar with your health is in the best position to discuss your prognosis with you and explain what the statistics may mean in your case. At the same time, you should keep in mind that your prognosis can change. Cancer and cancer treatment outcomes are hard to predict. For instance, a favorable prognosis (which means you’re likely going to do well) can change if the cancer spreads to key organs or doesn’t respond to treatment. An unfavorable prognosis can change, too. This can happen if treatment shrinks and controls the cancer so it doesn’t grow or spread.
What goes into a prognosis
When figuring out your prognosis, your healthcare provider will consider all the things that could affect the cancer and its treatment. Your healthcare provider will look at risk estimates about the exact type and stage of the cancer you have. These estimates are based on what results researchers have seen over many years in thousands of people with the same type and stage of cancer.
If your cancer is likely to respond well to treatment, your healthcare provider will say you have a favorable prognosis. This means you’re expected to live many years and may even be cured. If your cancer is likely to be hard to control, your prognosis may be less favorable. The cancer may shorten your life. It’s important to keep in mind that a prognosis states what’s likely or probable. It is not a prediction of what will definitely happen. No healthcare provider can be fully certain about an outcome.
Your prognosis depends mainly on:
The type and location of the cancer
The stage (extent) of the cancer
Your overall health
Your treatment decisions
Understanding survival rates
Survival rates show how many people live for a certain length of time after being told they have cancer. The rates are grouped for people with certain types and stages of cancer. Many times, the numbers used refer to the 5-year or the 10-year survival rate. That’s how many people are living 5 years or 10 years after diagnosis. The survival rate includes people at these different stages:
People who are cancer-free or cured
People who have few or no signs or symptoms of cancer
People who are getting cancer treatment
What is the survival rate for penile cancer?
Penile cancer is relatively rare. Accurate survival rates based on the stage of the cancer are difficult to determine. The following are survival rates for penile cancer, published by the American Cancer Society. These come from statistics compiled by the National Cancer Institute:
For cancers that have not spread outside the penis, the 5-year survival rate is about 85%.
For cancers that have spread into nearby areas or lymph nodes, the 5-year survival rate is about 59%.
For cancers that have spread to other parts of the body, the 5-year survival rate is about 11%.
These rates are adjusted to account for men who die from causes other than penile cancer.
When penile cancer is found early, its treatment is simple and often effective. The treatment is less likely to cause side effects or complications.
Talking with your healthcare provider
You can ask your healthcare provider about survival rates and what you might expect. But remember that statistics are based on large groups of people. They cannot be used to say what will happen to you. No two people are exactly alike. Treatment and how well people respond to treatment vary.
November 24, 2017
Alteri, Rick, MD,LoCicero, Richard, MD