Survival Rates for Kidney Cancer by Stage

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 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 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. 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 kidney 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, the 5-year relative survival rates are estimates – your outlook can vary based on many 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 few limitations to remember:

  • The numbers below are among the most current available. But to get 5-year survival rates, doctors must look at people who were treated at least 5 years ago. As treatments are improving over time, people who are now being diagnosed with kidney 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 kidney cancer varies by the stage (extent) of the cancer – in general, the survival rates are better 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 his or her circumstances.

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

Survival rates by AJCC TNM stage

The numbers below come from the National Cancer Data Base and are based on patients first diagnosed in the years 2001 and 2002. These are observed survival rates. They include people diagnosed with kidney cancer who may have later died from other causes, such as heart disease. People with kidney cancer tend to be older and may have other serious health conditions. Therefore, the percentage of people surviving the cancer itself is likely to be higher.

Stage

5-Year Survival Rate

I

81%

II

74%

III

53%

IV

8%

Survival rates in the UCLA Integrated Staging System

Researchers at UCLA have published a study evaluating their system in patients treated there from 1989 to 2005, looking at survival rates of the low-, intermediate- and high-risk groups. All of these patients at least had surgery to remove the tumor in the kidney. These numbers are disease-specific survival rates, meaning they only take into account people who died from their kidney cancer (and not other causes).

  • For patients with localized kidney cancer (cancer that had not spread to the lymph nodes or distant organs), 5-year survival rates were 97% for the low-risk group, 81% for intermediate-risk group, and 62% for the high-risk group.
  • For patients with kidney cancer that had spread to the lymph nodes or distant organs when it was first found, 5-year survival rates were 41% for the low-risk group, 18% for intermediate-risk group, and 8% for the high-risk group.

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. AJCC Cancer Staging Manual. 7th ed. New York, NY. Springer; 2010:479-486.

Belldegrun AS, Klatte T, Shuch B, et al. Cancer-specific survival outcomes among patients treated during the cytokine era of kidney cancer (1989-2005): A benchmark for emerging targeted cancer therapies. Cancer. 2008;113:2457-2463.

Lane BR, Canter DJ, Rini BI, Uzzo RG. Ch 63 - Cancer of the kidney. In: DeVita VT, Hellman S, Rosenberg SA, eds. Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 10th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2015.

National Comprehensive Cancer Network. NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology: Kidney Cancer. V.2.2012. Accessed at: www.nccn.org on June 5, 2012.

Pili R, Kauffman E, Rodriguez R. Ch 82 - Cancer of the kidney. In: Niederhuber JE, Armitage JO, Doroshow JH, Kastan MB, Tepper JE, eds. Abeloff’s Clinical Oncology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier: 2014.

 

 

Last Medical Review: August 1, 2017 Last Revised: August 1, 2017

American Cancer Society medical information is copyrighted material. For reprint requests, please see our Content Usage Policy.