Cancer in Young Adults

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Treating Cancer in Young Adults TOPICS

Survival rates in young adults with cancer

A great deal of progress has been made in treating childhood cancers in recent decades, but improvements in treatment and survival have been slower in young adults. As with children, the progress in some cancer types has been greater than in others.

Five-year survival rates

The 5-year survival rate refers to the percentage of patients who live at least 5 years after their cancer is diagnosed. Doctors use 5-year rates as a standard way of discussing and comparing the prognosis (outlook for recovery) for different cancers. Of course, many people live much longer than 5 years, and many are cured. Keep in mind that 5-year survival rates are based on patients who were diagnosed and treated more than 5 years ago. Improvements in treatment could result in a better outlook for patients diagnosed more recently.

Here are the 5-year survival rates for the some of the more common cancers in teens and young adults, based on people who were diagnosed between the years 2000 and 2007. (Note: These numbers include cancers diagnosed in teens age 15 to 19, although they account for only a small portion of these cancers overall.)

  • Breast cancer: about 80% to 85%
  • Hodgkin lymphoma: about 90% to 95%
  • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma: about 75%
  • Melanoma: about 95%
  • Soft tissue sarcoma (not including rhabdomyosarcoma): about 70%
  • Osteosarcoma: about 65%
  • Ewing sarcoma: about 50%
  • Ovarian cancer: about 80%
  • Cervical cancer: about 80% to 85%
  • Thyroid cancer: nearly 100%
  • Testicular cancer: about 95%
  • Colorectal cancer: about 65%
  • Acute myeloid leukemia (AML): about 50%
  • Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL): about 50%
  • Brain tumors: about 65%

Survival rates are based on previous outcomes of large numbers of people who had the disease, but they are at best rough estimates and can’t predict what will happen in any one person’s case. The type of cancer is important in estimating outlook. But many other factors can also be important, such as the person’s age, the location and extent of the cancer, and how well the cancer responds to treatment. If you have cancer, your doctor is your best source of information on survival, as he or she is familiar with your situation.


Last Medical Review: 02/18/2014
Last Revised: 02/18/2014