Prognosis, by definition, means how a disease is likely to progress for a patient. If a person is recently diagnosed with cancer, then they need to know the prognosis because cancer treatment can last from months to, at times, even years.
Therefore, ‘understanding the prognosis of cancer’ is at the heart of its treatment and the patient’s coping mechanism. It is undoubtedly an essential part of the cancer treatment’s journey, both from a patient’s and a doctor’s perspective.
In this blog, we’ll talk in detail about what factors to consider in cancer prognosis, how to interpret them, and what to expect.
While the chances of survival for various kinds of cancers are improving with new research, you must understand that no two patients are alike. Therefore, while the treatment for two cancer patients may be the same, they may have entirely different coping mechanisms.
Factors important for cancer prognosis
When a doctor informs a patient of his/her cancer diagnosis, the first question that comes to a patient’s mind is the likely survival rate. Simply put, whether the person will survive and beat cancer with the help of treatment or not. Typically, the medical community considers a 5-year survival rate of cancer, but, depending upon the patient and the type of cancer, they may even discuss a 1- or 2-year survival rate. The prognosis and survival rate depends upon many factors, like:
a) The type of cancer : Cancer’s prognosis depends a lot on its type. This means which part of a patient’s body is affected by cancer, whether it is a cancer of breasts, lungs, prostrate, liver, mouth, etc. After doctors figure out which part has cancer, the next thing they have to check is whether the cancer is localized (limited to only one part), regional (cancer has spread but only to nearby parts), or distant (spread to distant parts). Cancer survival rates vary by its type and spread. If a person has cancer, but it is localized and is in a part, which is not indispensable for survival (like mouth or breast), then the survival rate tends to be very high. For example, the 5-year survival rate for women diagnosed with localized breast cancer is 99%. However, if a person has cancer, which is crucial for survival, then the survival rate may not be high. For example, the 5-year survival rate for a patient with localized liver cancer is 34%. Similarly, the 5-year survival rate for localized pancreatic cancer patients is 39%, and that of distant pancreatic cancer is a mere 3%.
b) The grade of cancer : Often, people get confused between the grade and the stage of cancer. In reality, these are two different aspects. Cancer’s grade is about the extent to which cancer cells and tissues look abnormal under a microscope compared to healthy cells. Grade 1 tumour cells look almost like healthy cells and tissues, which means they are well differentiated and have a much better prognosis than other types of cancers. In a Grade 2 cancer, cells look somewhat abnormal and are moderately differentiated. In a Grade 3 cancer, cells and tissues appear very abnormal, as they don’t have an architectural structure or pattern. Grade 4 cancers have the most undifferentiated and abnormal-looking cells. Being the highest grade of cancer, they grow and spread much faster than lower grade cancers.
c) Overall health of a patient before the diagnosis : We can’t emphasize more on this point. Regardless of whether a person has cancer or not, it is of utmost importance to be in good health. Therefore, the status of health of a cancer patient has a huge impact on prognosis. Patients with diabetes, very high blood pressure, or other health conditions typically have a poorer cancer prognosis than patients who don’t have such disorders. Age is another reason why patients struggle to be in good health. This is why frail elderly and young kids with cancer have a lower survival rate because they are weaker than other patients. Therefore, it is essential to maintain good health while getting cancer treatment. Treatments like surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy have adverse impacts on health. To deal with that, a patient must maintain and improve their health.
d) Genetic factors : A significant number of cancer cases are on account of genetic factors. In such cases, patients carry a particular gene mutation that makes them more predisposed to a certain kind of cancer. Harmful gene mutations cause several kinds of cancers, like breast cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, ovarian cancer, and melanoma. Genetic factors are important in cancer treatment and prognosis for two reasons. One, certain gene mutations increase the risk of cancer for some individuals. Suppose a cancer patient is carrying a harmful gene mutation. In that case, the doctors may recommend a different treatment to patients who have the same cancer but without that gene mutation.
What steps should a Cancer patient take after the initial diagnosis?
A cancer patient and their family need to take all the precautions suggested by the doctor during the cancer treatment. Knowing what precautions and steps to take is as important as the treatment itself.
After a person is diagnosed with cancer, a doctor will inform them about the survival rate and the course of treatment. Still, a patient or the family needs to ask the doctor about possible side effects of treatment, dietary precautions, changes in lifestyle, etc.
In certain types of cancer treatments, a patient’s immunity is affected. For example, patients, who are taking chemotherapy, usually have lower immunity. Such patients are discouraged from going out into public areas for fear of catching an infection.
At times, patients taking radiation suffer from constipation and other side effects. In some cases, patients may even suffer from weight loss with treatment. Therefore, it’s always advisable to have a detailed conversation with the doctors to take necessary action.
It’s also a good idea to consult a dietician, who can advise on what necessary changes to the diet. Depending upon the type of treatment, a patient may be advised to avoid highly spicy food.
The idea is to get as much knowledge as possible, but, of course, it must be backed by facts. Nothing is more important than finding a good team of sufficiently qualified doctors who have handled several cases to suggest the best possible course of action.
Dendritic cell vaccinesThe doctors at Denvax have revolutionized cancer treatment by providing personalized treatment using cancer-fighting dendritic cells. Dendritic cells refer to immune cells, which improve immune response to fight diseases like cancer.
This treatment is known as dendritic cell-based cancer immunotherapy, and it is provided along with other conventional treatments, like surgeries, radiation, and chemotherapy. This kind of immunotherapy doesn’t affect the efficacy of other treatments.
The founders of Denvax, Dr. Jamal A. Khan and Dr. Sharmin Yaqin, are leading cancer immunotherapists in India. They are providing cancer treatment to a number of patients through their clinics at Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Amritsar, and Lucknow in India.