Survival Rates for Nasopharyngeal 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 (such as 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 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 a certain type (and stage) of 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 80%, it means that people who have that 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 keep in mind that 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 some 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 several years ago. As treatments are improving over time, people who are now being diagnosed with nasopharyngeal 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 nasopharyngeal 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 also affect a person’s outlook, such as a person’s age and overall health, where the cancer is in the body, 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 nasopharyngeal cancer

The numbers below were published in 2010 in the 7th edition of the AJCC Cancer Staging Manual and are based on people diagnosed between 1998 and 1999.

Stage

Relative 5-year
survival rate

I

72%

II

64%

III

62%

IV

38%

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

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. Pharynx. In: AJCC Cancer Staging Manual. 7th ed. New York, NY: Springer; 2010: 41-56. 

Last Medical Review: December 20, 2017 Last Revised: December 20, 2017

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