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What are the benefits of early detection?

by on April 2, 2012

On Friday, Marcy talked about the realities of ovarian cancer. Today, we’re going to talk a little bit more about the benefits of early detection.

Simply put, early detection is linked to a higher rate of survival.

One method of calculating survival is called relative survival – under this method, the survival of cancer patients is compared to that of the general population to estimate the effects of the cancer. The chart below illustrates the importance of early detection. The relative survival rate appears in the far right column.

Stage Distribution and 5-year Relative Survival by Stage at Diagnosis for 
2001-2007, All Races, Females
Stage at Diagnosis Stage
Distribution (%)
Relative Survival (%)
Localized (confined to primary site) 15 92.5
Regional (spread to regional lymphnodes) 17 72.0
Distant (cancer has metastasized) 62 26.9
Unknown (unstaged) 7 22.4

(Chart courtesy of NIH’s National Cancer Institute.)

As you can see, when ovarian cancer is diagnosed at an early stage, the relative survival rate is very high – over 90 percent of women diagnosed at an early stage live at least five years after diagnosis. (Many people live much longer than that.)

The chart also tells another story – the number in the center column represents the percentage of cancers caught at each stage. Only 15 percent of ovarian cancers are diagnosed at the earliest stage. In fact, ovarian cancer is most commonly diagnosed at a late stage – that means that 62 percent of the time, the cancer is diagnosed once it has already begun to metastasize to other locations in the body. Unfortunately, the relative survival rate for this late stage diagnosis is only 26.9 percent.

The survival rate can be broken down even further – although ovarian cancer is usually diagnosed as Stage I, II, III or IV, there are also several sub-stages. These statistics are just as sobering. The more advanced the cancer, the lower the survival rate.

For more information about the various stages, visit the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition. For survival data based on each stage and sub-stage, visit the American Cancer Society.



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