Eye Cancer Survival Rates

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 of cancer are often given as 5-year survival rates. 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. 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 cancer to people in the overall population. For example, if the 5-year relative survival rate for a specific type 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, all survival rates are estimates – your outlook can vary based on 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 eye cancer may have a better outlook than these statistics show.
  • These statistics are based on when the cancer was first diagnosed. They do not apply to cancers that later come back or spread, for example.
  • The outlook for people with eye cancer varies by the type and stage (extent) – in general, the survival rates are higher for people with earlier stage cancers. But other factors can also affect a person’s outlook (see below). 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 situation.

Survival rates for eye melanoma

The numbers below come from the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) database, and are based on about 7,500 patients who were diagnosed with uveal eye melanoma between 1973 and 2012.

Overall, about 3 out of 4 people with eye melanoma survive for at least 5 years. Survival rates tend to be better for earlier-stage than for later-stage cancers, but accurate survival rates for eye melanomas based on a specific stage are hard to determine because these cancers are fairly rare.

When the cancer is confined to the eye, the 5-year relative survival rate is about 80%. For people with eye melanomas that have spread to distant parts of the body, the 5-year relative survival rate is about 15%.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Mahendraraj K, Lau CS, Lee I, Chamberlain RS. Trends in incidence, survival, and management of uveal melanoma: a population-based study of 7,516 patients from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results database (1973–2012). Clinical Ophthalmology (Auckland, NZ). 2016;10:2113-2119. doi:10.2147/OPTH.S113623.

Young JL, Ward KC, Ries LAG. Cancers of rare sites. In: Ries LAG, Young JL, Keel GE, Eisner MP, Lin YD, Horner M-J, eds. SEER Survival Monograph: Cancer Survival Among Adults: U.S. SEER Program, 1988-2001, Patient and Tumor Characteristics. National Cancer Institute, SEER Program, NIH Pub. No. 07-6215, Bethesda, MD, 2007. Accessed at http://seer.cancer.gov/archive/publications/survival/index.html on August 20, 2018.

Last Medical Review: November 30, 2018 Last Revised: November 30, 2018

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