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Survival rates tell you what portion of people with the same type and stage of cancer are still alive a certain amount of time (usually 5 years) after they were diagnosed. They can’t tell you how long you will live, but they may help give you a better understanding about how likely it is that your treatment will be successful. Some people will want to know the survival rates for their cancer, and some people won’t. If you don’t want to know, you don’t have to.

What is a 5-year survival rate?

Statistics on the outlook for a certain type and stage of cancer are often given as 5-year survival rates, but many people live longer – often much longer – than 5 years. The 5-year survival rate is the percentage of people who live at least 5 years after being diagnosed with cancer. For example, a 5-year survival rate of 70% means that an estimated 70 out of 100 people who have that cancer are still alive 5 years after being diagnosed. Keep in mind, however, that many of these people live much longer than 5 years after diagnosis.

Relative survival rates are a more accurate way to estimate the effect of cancer on survival. These rates compare people with bladder cancer to people in the overall population. For example, if the 5-year relative survival rate for a specific stage of bladder cancer is 80%, it means that people who have that stage of cancer are, on average, about 80% as likely as people who don’t have that cancer to live for at least 5 years after being diagnosed.

But remember, the 5-year relative survival rates are estimates – your outlook can vary based on a number of factors specific to you.

Cancer survival rates don’t tell the whole story

Survival rates are often based on previous outcomes of large numbers of people who had the disease, but they can’t predict what will happen in any particular person’s case. There are a number of limitations to remember:

  • The numbers below are among the most current available. But to get 5-year survival rates, doctors have to look at people who were treated at least 5 years ago. As treatments are improving over time, people who are now being diagnosed with bladder cancer may have a better outlook than these statistics show.
  • These statistics are based on the stage of the cancer when it was first diagnosed. They do not apply to cancers that later come back or spread, for example.
  • The outlook for people with bladder cancer varies by the stage (extent) of the cancer – in general, the survival rates are higher for people with earlier stage cancers. But many other factors can affect a person’s outlook, such as age and overall health, and how well the cancer responds to treatment. The outlook for each person is specific to their circumstances.

Your doctor can tell you how these numbers may apply to you, as he or she is familiar with your particular situation.

Survival rates for bladder cancer

According to the most recent data, when including all stages of bladder cancer:

  • The 5-year relative survival rate is about 77%
  • The 10-year relative survival rate is about 70%
  • The 15-year relative survival rate is about 65%

Keep in mind that just as 5-year survival rates are based on people diagnosed and first treated more than 5 years ago, 10-year survival rates are based on people diagnosed more than 10 years ago (and 15-year survival rates are based on people diagnosed at least 15 years ago).

Survival rates, by stage

The numbers below are based on thousands of people diagnosed with bladder cancer from 1988 to 2001. These numbers come from the National Cancer Institute’s SEER database.

  • The 5-year relative survival rate for people with stage 0 bladder cancer is about 98%.
  • The 5-year relative survival rate for people with stage I bladder cancer is about 88%.
  • For stage II bladder cancer, the 5-year relative survival rate is about 63%.
  • The 5-year relative survival rate for stage III bladder cancer is about 46%.
  • Bladder cancer that has spread to other parts of the body is often hard to treat. Stage IV bladder cancer has a relative 5-year survival rate of about 15%. Still, there are often treatment options available for people with this stage of cancer.

Remember, these survival rates are only estimates – they can’t predict what will happen to any individual person. We understand that these statistics can be confusing and may lead you to have more questions. Talk to your doctor to better understand your specific situation.


Last Medical Review: 01/26/2016
Last Revised: 02/08/2016