Survival rate vs. individual outlook

Cancer survival rates can give you a general idea of how long people live after diagnosis. But they can’t tell you much about your individual outlook.

One key thing to keep in mind is the type of statistic you’re looking at. A five-year survival rate, for example, reflects the percentage of people who live at least five years after diagnosis. That means some of those people live well beyond five years.

The relative five-year survival rate means something else entirely, and it’s arguably more informative. This figure conveys the percentage of people with bladder cancer who are likely to live at least five years after diagnosis compared to those who don’t have bladder cancer.

Survival rates don’t specify if survivors are in remission or are still in treatment.

These statistics are based on large numbers of people, which is good. But those are people who were diagnosed at least five years ago — or more in some cases. As bladder cancer treatment evolves, better therapies are available all the time. Any recent improvement in outlook won’t be reflected in those statistics.

It’s also important to note that looking at bladder cancer statistics by stage is more useful than looking at overall bladder cancer statistics.

As for your own outlook, there are quite a few variables to consider. In addition to cancer stage and tumor grade, your age and general health may play a role. The therapies you and your doctor choose and how quickly you start treatment will also affect your outlook. Additionally, not everyone responds to a particular treatment the same way.

Continue reading to learn more about bladder cancer survival rates and what’s involved in your own prognosis.

According to the American Cancer Society, the relative survival rates for all stages of bladder cancer are:

  • 5 years: 77 percent
  • 10 years: 70 percent
  • 15 years: 65 percent

When you look at the five-year survival rates broken down by stage, you get a clearer picture of why stage matters. These figures are based on people diagnosed from 1988 to 2001:

Survival rates by stage are based on stage at diagnosis. Another important factor for outlook is the tumor grade. The grade represents how quickly the cancer is likely to grow and spread. Low-grade bladder cancer is less likely than high-grade bladder cancer to spread into the muscle wall of the bladder and beyond.

The median age of diagnosis is 69 for men and 71 for women. Less than 1 percent of diagnoses are made in people under age 40. Young adults and children can develop bladder cancer, even though it’s less commonly seen in people in these age groups. Although the risk of disease progression is the same, younger people tend to be diagnosed in the earlier stages, when the prognosis is better.

Bladder cancer has a tendency to recur, so when treatment ends, you’re still considered at high risk.

Some people with superficial bladder cancer experience frequent recurrences throughout their lives. In general, the prognosis is worse when recurrence involves distant tissues, organs, or lymph nodes.

It’s not clear if there’s anything you can do to prevent bladder cancer from recurring. Recurrence can be treated, especially when localized, so it’s important to:

  • see your doctor regularly
  • adhere to a follow-up schedule of lab tests or imaging tests as advised
  • report signs and symptoms of bladder cancer right away
  • take prescribed medications as instructed

You can also do a few things to stay as healthy and strong as possible, such as:

  • maintain a healthy weight
  • get regular exercise
  • eat a well-balanced diet
  • don’t smoke

Whether you’re in remission or still being treated, bladder cancer can affect every aspect of your life. It’s not uncommon to feel stress, anxiety, or difficulty with symptoms and side effects.

Talking with family and friends can be helpful. You can also consider joining an online or in-person support group, where you’re likely to meet people who understand your concerns. It’s a good way to get support — and to give it, too.

Ask your doctor or hospital for information about local resources or visit:

You can learn a lot from statistics, but they can’t give you a prognosis. Your doctor will factor in your unique circumstances to give you a general idea of what to expect.