5 Cancers With The Best Prognosis

Medically Reviewed by Dr. K on 13 May 2022

5 Cancers With The Best Prognosis

Cancer recovery is highly unpredictable. However, some forms of the disease are easier to diagnose and treat than others. Some people are beginning to use a new “C" term to describe cancer: “cure."

Some doctors avoid using the term because they believe there is never a guarantee that cancer will go away completely after treatment. They prefer the term “remission," which implies that the patient is currently cancer-free, but does not rule out the possibility that it may return at a later stage. However, a person who remains cancer-free for five years after being diagnosed has a better chance of survival.

That does not rule out the possibility of dying from cancer, or even that you don't have it in your body, but it's a positive sign.

Here are five cancers with the best prognosis and chance of recovery.

Prostate Cancer

Survival rate 5 years after diagnosis: About 99%

What increases the likelihood of recovery? Many prostate tumours are slow to develop or do not grow at all. They are not dangerous enough to require treatment at the time of diagnosis. Many men with these forms of tumours are able to live a normal life for many years. They also die of causes other than cancer.

What reduces the chances of a good outcome? As cancer spreads (metastasizes), it becomes even more difficult to treat. Prostate cancers can spread rapidly to other parts of the body in a small percentage of cases. Just about 29% of men survive 5 years after being diagnosed when this occurs. The good news is that most prostate cancers are detected early and treated before they spread.

The role of cancer screening:

Prostate cancer can be detected in one of two forms. One is a digital rectal examination (DRE), in which your doctor uses a gloved finger to feel inside your bottom. This test looks for lumps, bumps and irregularities in the prostate.

The PSA test, which examines levels of a protein that is frequently higher in men with prostate cancer, is the second test. PSA levels will rise for reasons other than prostate cancer, so some medical associations advise against getting the test if a man's risk of the disease is low. Consult your doctor to see if you need testing.

If you have any of these “red flag” symptoms and signs, please notify your doctor immediately.

  • Weak or interrupted urine flow or the need to strain to empty the bladder
  • Difficulty initiating urination
  • Frequent urination
  • The urge to urinate frequently at night
  • Blood in the urine
  • New onset of erectile dysfunction
  • Pain or burning during urination, which is much less common
  • Discomfort or pain when sitting, caused by an enlarged prostate
  • Back pain
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Fatigue

These may be signs of prostate cancer or other underlying issues.

Thyroid Cancer

Survival rate 5 years after diagnosis: about 98% (depending on tissue type)

What increases the likelihood of recovery? The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in your neck that produces hormones that your body requires to burn calories, regulate your heartbeat, and other functions. Papillary thyroid cancer is the most common form of thyroid cancer, and it develops slowly. Doctors will also treat and even cure this disease with surgery that eliminates the gland, even when tumours are large or begin to spread into other surrounding tissues. People take medication to replace the hormones produced by the thyroid after surgery.

Thyroid tumours are now being discovered earlier than ever before, making them easier to treat.

What reduces the chances of a good outcome? Anaplastic thyroid cancer has a 5-year survival rate of just 7%, but it's a very rare form of the disease.

The role of cancer screening:

Thyroid cancer does not have any recommended screening tests. When patients (or a doctor) notice lumps or swelling in their beck, this could indicate the possibility of a tumour. When you have an ultrasound for another cause, your doctor may detect early disease.

If you have any of these “red flag” symptoms and signs, please notify your doctor immediately.

  • A lump in the front of the neck, near the Adam's apple
  • Hoarseness voice
  • Swollen glands in the neck
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Pain in the throat or neck
  • A cough that persists and is not caused by a cold
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Fatigue

These may be signs of thyroid cancer or other underlying issues.

Testicular Cancer

Survival rate 5 years after diagnosis: 95.1%

What increases the likelihood of recovery?  Doctors can treat this cancer in its early stages (when the tumour hasn't spread to other areas of the body) by removing one or both testicles with tumours. If a man has only one testicle removed (as is common), the remaining testicle will normally produce enough hormones for him to have sex and have children. Surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy are often used to treat cancers that have progressed to a later stage. It is often necessary to conduct a stem cell transplant. Doctors attribute significant increases in survival rates for advanced testicular cancer to the chemo drug cisplatin, which was launched in the 1970s.

What reduces the chances of a good outcome? Even for advanced testicular cancer, there are treatments that are effective. This form of tumour has a 5-year survival rate of 73%, which is still very good for late-stage cancer.

The role of cancer screening:

Testicular cancer does not have a screening procedure.

If you have any of these “red flag” symptoms and signs, please notify your doctor immediately.

  • A painless mass or swelling on either testicle. A testicular tumour maybe the size of a pea or a marble if discovered early, but it may develop to be far larger.
  • Pain, discomfort, or numbness in a testicle or the scrotum; with or without swelling.
  • Change in the way a testicle feels or a feeling of heaviness in the scrotum. One testicle, for example, can become firmer than the other. Testicular cancer may also cause the testicle to expand or shrink in size.
  • Dull ache in the lower abdomen or groin.
  • Sudden buildup of fluid in the scrotum.
  • Tenderness or growth of the breasts. Some testicular tumours produce hormones that induce breast tenderness or breast tissue formation, a disorder known as gynecomastia.
  • Later-stage testicular cancer may cause lower back pain, shortness of breath, chest pain, and bloody sputum or phlegm.
    Testicular cancer may cause swelling of one or both legs, as well as shortness of breath from a blood clot formation. Deep venous thrombosis, or DVT, is a blood clot in a large vein. A pulmonary embolism is a blood clot in a lung artery that induces shortness of breath. A blood clot can be the first symptom of testicular cancer in certain young or middle-aged individuals.
  • Fatigue
  • Unintentional weight loss

These symptoms may indicate the presence of a testicular tumour.

Melanoma

Survival rate 5 years after diagnosis: 91.7%

What increases the likelihood of recovery? Melanoma skin cancer can typically be detected with the naked eye when it is still in its early stages. Doctors can surgically remove and treat it if it hasn't spread beyond the surface of the skin.

What reduces the chances of a good outcome? Melanoma is much more likely than other skin cancers to spread to other areas of the body if it isn't caught early. It's difficult to treat once it has spread past the skin's surface. About 15% to 20% of people who discover melanomas after they've spread to other areas of their bodies will still be alive 5 years after they're diagnosed.

The role of cancer screening:

You should look for big, dark, oddly shaped, or raised rashes or moles on your skin. Checking your back, scalp, scrotum, and in between your toes is particularly necessary. Melanomas are more difficult to spot in these areas. If you note any of these changes, contact your doctor right away. They will be able to tell you whether or not the spot is dangerous. If you have a higher chance of melanoma, such as if you've had it before or it runs in your family, gets tested by a dermatologist on a regular basis.

The “ABCDE" rule is helpful in remembering the warning signs of melanoma:

  • Asymmetry. The shape of one-half of the mole does not match the other.
  • Border. The edges are irregular: ragged, notched, uneven, or blurred. Normal moles are round or oval.
  • Colour. The mole is not evenly coloured. Shades of black, brown, and tan may be present. Areas of white, grey, red, or blue may also be seen.
  • Diameter. The diameter is usually larger than 6 millimetres (mm) or has grown in size. This is about 1/4 inch in diameter. Melanoma may be smaller when it is first detected.
  • Evolving. The mole has been changing in size, shape, colour, or appearance, or it is growing in an area of previously normal skin. Also, when melanoma develops in an existing mole, the texture of the mole may change and become hard or lumpy. The skin lesion may feel different and may itch, ooze, or bleed, but a melanoma skin lesion usually does not cause pain.

Breast Cancer – Early Stage

Survival rate 5 years after diagnosis: early stages of 0 and 1 – 99% to 100%

What increases the likelihood of recovery? Breast cancer has come a long way in modern medicine. Doctors today have a better understanding of how to detect and handle it. We now have a much greater understanding of the situation than ever before. For example, we now know that breast cancer is a group of diseases rather than a single disease. Different drugs have been developed by researchers to treat different types.

What reduces the chances of a good outcome? Breast cancer that is detected early on is easier to treat and cure than cancer that has spread. Some forms of cancer are often easier to treat than others. For instance, a breast tumour that expresses the “oestrogen receptor" will benefit from oestrogen-lowering drugs. On the other hand, breast cancers that are “triple-negative" are more aggressive and do not respond to targeted therapies.

The role of cancer screening:

Normal mammograms have been shown to help women detect early cancers, thus improving survival and prognosis. However, medical associations have differing recommendations for when and how frequently women should be screened. Some suggest screening tests every other year beginning at the age of 50 if the risk of breast cancer is considered normal. The American Cancer Society recommends that women begin yearly mammograms at the age of 45, and those between the ages of 40 and 44 should have the option to begin yearly mammograms.

If you have any of these “red flag” symptoms and signs, please notify your doctor immediately.

  • New lump in the breast or underarm (armpit).
  • Thickening or swelling of part of the breast.
  • Irritation or dimpling of breast skin.
  • Redness or flaky skin in the nipple area or the breast.
  • Pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area.
  • Nipple discharge other than breast milk, including blood.
  • Any change in the size or the shape of the breast.
  • Pain in any area of the breast.
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Fatigue

These symptoms may indicate the presence of breast cancer.

Sources

Referenced on  27/4/2021

  1. Jay Brooks, MD, chairman of hematology/oncology, Ochsner Health System, Baton Rouge.
  2. Otis Brawley, MD, chief medical officer, American Cancer Society.
  3. American Cancer Society: “Breast Cancer," “Breast Cancer Prevention and Early Detection," “Mammograms Save Lives," “Melanoma Skin Cancer," “Prostate Cancer Prevention and Early Detection," “Testicular Cancer," “Thyroid Cancer," “Treatment Types," “When Cancer Comes Back: Cancer Recurrence."
  4. Prostate Cancer Foundation: “PSA & DRE Screening," “What Is Prostate Cancer?"
  5. Tangen, C.M. Journal of Urology, October 2012.
  6. California Cancer Registry: “Cancer Stage at Diagnosis."
  7. CDC: “What Screening Tests Are There for Prostate Cancer?"
  8. U.S. Preventive Services Task Force: “Breast Cancer: Screening," “Prostate Cancer: Screening."
  9. The American Association of Endocrine Surgeons: “Thyroid Cancer: Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer (ATC)," “Thyroid Cancer: Papillary Thyroid Cancer (PTC)."
  10. Einhorn, L. E. Proceedings of the American Academy of Sciences, April 2, 2002.
  11. University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center: “Metastatic Melanoma."
  12. Melanoma Research Foundation: “The ABCDEs of Melanoma Screening," “Detection & Screening."
  13. Breast Cancer Research Foundation: “Our Progress."
  14. https://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/prostate-cancer/symptoms-and-signs
  15. https://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/thyroid-cancer/symptoms-and-signs
  16. https://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/testicular-cancer/symptoms-and-signs
  17. https://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/melanoma/symptoms-and-signs
  18. https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/breast/basic_info/symptoms.htm
  19. https://www.webmd.com/cancer/5-curable-cancers

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