Before going deep into statistics about bladder cancer survival rates, it is important to understand what these figures really mean. People usually misconceive survival rate as cure rate. In fact, survival rate indicates the percentage of patients who still live after a period of time. Normally doctors use 5-year or 10-year as the benchmark for this period. For example, a 5-year survival rate refers to the proportion of patients who are still alive 5 years after diagnosis. Also, remember that 5-year is just a benchmark. It does not mean that those patients can only live for 5 years.
Bladder Caner Survival Rates
In addition, the stats presented in this article are bladder cancer relative survival rates. “Relative” means that these figures do not include people who die of other causes such as old age or heart disease. This provides a better and more accurate look at the impact bladder cancer has on the chance of survival.
Bladder cancer survival rates based on stage and grade
Depending on how deep the cancerous tumor has reached, bladder cancer can be classified into early, invasive and advanced bladder cancer. In other words, a tumor at stage T1 can be regarded as early cancer, whereas in T4 stage, when the tumor turns into metastatic cancer, it is considered advanced.
Besides, based on the appearance of the tumor, bladder cancer can also be graded as low (G1), medium (G2) and high (G3). Low-grade cancerous cells look like normal cells, grow slowly and are unlikely to spread. Meanwhile, cancer cells in G3 look abnormal and are likely to develop and spread quickly.
These two factors, the stage and grade of cancer, play a very important part in determining proper treatment approaches and predict the outlook of the patient. Therefore, they also have a great influence on the bladder cancer survival rates.
Early bladder cancer survival rates
About 7 out of 10 (70%) cancer cases are identified when the tumors are still confined to the bladder lining. For patients in these early stages (Ta, T1 and CIS), about 80 to 90 percent are able to live for more than 5 years after diagnosis.
Though all these superficial bladder cancers can be cured using minor surgery such as TURB, medium and high grade cancers such as CIS and T1 tumors are likely to come back and require further treatment. Taking all these early bladder cancers together, about 50 to 70 percent will return after being treated. However, just about 10 to 30 percent of them come back as invasive cancer that has penetrated through the bladder lining, while the rest recur as early and non-invasive bladder cancer.
For low grade Ta tumors, the bladder cancer survival rate is also rather high, about 50% of them will come back after being treated. However, most return as superficial cancerous cells that can be removed again by surgery. Just less than 10 percent of these comebacks are invasive cancers which require intensive therapy.
Meanwhile, T1 tumors are high grade cancers. In other words, they grow more quickly and are more likely to develop into invasive bladder cancers. In fact, an estimated 50% of them will become invasive cancers if they are not treated. Therefore, bladder cancers in this stage always need further treatment after being removed by surgery.
Invasive bladder cancer survival rates
About 30 percent of the bladder cancer prognosis are done when the tumors have already invaded the muscle wall of the bladder. Approximately 50% of those who are diagnosed with cancers in T2 stage are still alive 3 years later. Unfortunately, this 3-year bladder cancer survival rate for T3 stage is only 25 percent, meaning the bladder cancer treatment is less successful for cancers in more advanced stages.
Though surgery and radiotherapy have been proven to be effective in treating these invasive bladder cancers, it is still difficult for doctors to tell whether or not a cancer can return after treatment. This usually depends on the level of invasion of the tumors. For instance, a T3 can cancer has a higher chance of coming back than a T2 cancer. Also, if the cancerous cells have already affected the lymph nodes in the pelvis, they are much more likely to recur after being removed.
Advanced bladder cancer survival rates
Cancers in T4 stage are known as metastatic cancers, meaning they have already spread to other parts of the body. About roughly 5 percent of bladder cancer cases are diagnosed when the tumors have reached T4 stage, and all of them have a poorer outlook than those having early bladder cancer.
If the pelvic lymph nodes near the bladder have been affected by the cancer, and provided that they are removed during surgery, the 5-year bladder cancer survival rate in this case will be approximately 30%. Meanwhile, if the cancer has spread to not only the lymph nodes in the pelvis but also ones in other parts of the body, this figure only ranges from 10 to 15 percent.
Regrettably, a cancer which has invaded another body organ (such as lungs, liver or bones) is unlikely to be cured, though chemotherapy and other treatments can still help in slowing its development and controlling the symptoms. Usually, then the cancer has reached this level, the average time for an individual to survive is just from 12 to 18 months. But it is also important to remember that the term “average” indicates that there are still people who live longer than that.
Anyway, all these bladder cancer survival rates are just statistics collected from a variety of patients. They do not help in telling what will happen to a particular person. Every person is unique, thus their treatments, prognosis and outlook cannot be the same as another’s.