"Life-time risk" is the term that cancer researchers use to refer to the probability that an individual, over the course of a lifetime will develop cancer or die from it. In the United States, men have a one in two lifetime risk of developing cancer, and for women the risk is one in three. Overall, African-Americans are more likely to develop cancer than whites. African-Americans are also 30% more likely to die of cancer than whites.
Most cancers are curable if detected and treated at their early stages. A cancer patient's prognosis is affected by many factors, particularly the type of cancer the patient has, the stage of the cancer, the extent to which it has metastasized and the aggressiveness of the cancer. In addition, the patient's age, general health status, and the effectiveness of the treatment being pursued are also important factors.
To help predict the future course and outcome of the disease and the likelihood of recovery from the disease, doctors often use statistics. The five-year survival rates are the most common measures used. The number refers to the proportion of people with cancer who are expected to be alive, five years after initial diagnosis, compared with a similar population that is free of cancer. It is important to note that while statistics can give some information about the average survival experience of cancer patients in a given population, it cannot be used to indicate individual prognosis, because no two patients are exactly alike.
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