Anal Cancer Survival Rates

Survival rates tell you what percentage of people with the same type and stage of cancer are still alive a certain length of time (usually 5 years) after they were diagnosed. These numbers 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 type and stage, 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 90% means that an estimated 90 out of 100 people who have that cancer are still alive 5 years after being diagnosed.

Relative survival rates are a more accurate way to estimate the effect of cancer on survival. These rates compare people with cancer to people in the overall population. For example, if the 5-year relative survival rate for a specific type and stage of cancer is 90%, it means that people who have that cancer are, on average, about 90% as likely as people who don’t have that cancer to live for at least 5 years after being diagnosed.

But remember, 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 look at people who were treated at least 5 years ago. As treatments are improving over time, people who are now being diagnosed with anal 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 come back later or spread, for example.
  • Besides the cancer stage, many other factors can affect a person's outlook, such as age and overall health, and how well the cancer responds to treatment.

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

The following statistics come from the National Cancer Data Base and are based on cancers diagnosed between 2003 and 2006. In addition to dividing the cancers by stage, the National Cancer Database divides anal cancers based on histology (how the cells look under the microscope) into squamous cell cancers and non-squamous cell cancers. (See the section about invasive anal cancers in What Is Anal Cancer? for more details.)

These numbers are observed survival rates. They include people diagnosed with anal cancer who might have died later from other causes, such as heart disease. Some people with anal cancer may have other serious health conditions. Therefore, the percentage of people surviving the cancer itself is likely to be higher.

 

5-year observed survival for anal cancer

Stage

Squamous cancers

Non-squamous cancers

I

77%

71%

II

67%

59%

IIIA

58%

50%

IIIB

51%

35%

IV

15%

7%

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master's-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

American Joint Committee on Cancer. Anus. In: AJCC Cancer Staging Manual. 8th ed. New York, NY: Springer; 2017: 275.

Last Medical Review: December 8, 2017 Last Revised: December 8, 2017

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