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Survivorship: During and After Treatment

Cancer Recurrence Rates

It’s common for a cancer survivor to wonder how likely it is for their cancer to come back (cancer recurrence). A cancer recurrence rate can help show generally how often cancer comes back, but it is not the same as your individual risk of cancer recurrence.

What are cancer recurrence rates?

A cancer recurrence is when a cancer that was not detectable comes back. It may come back where it first started or in a different part of the body. A cancer recurrence rate is a measure of how often cancer comes back among a large group of people. Recurrence rates are typically estimates and are different for each type of cancer.

Which cancers have the highest and lowest recurrence rates?

It’s hard to know recurrence rates for specific cancer types. Cancer registries track how many new cancers are diagnosed each year, but doctors are not required to report cancers that have recurred. This means recurrence information is not collected by cancer registries where many statistics come from.

While research and statistics are limited, we do know that recurrence rates are different depending on the type and stage of the cancer. Tumor characteristics and the treatment given for the cancer can also affect whether a cancer is likely to come back.

Many types of cancers that are found at an early stage have a lower chance of recurrence.

The chance of recurrence is higher for:

Some cancers, such as certain types of breast cancer, have tests available to help doctors understand what chance a person’s cancer has of coming back. For example, triple-negative (hormone-receptor negative) breast cancer is more likely to recur than hormone-receptor positive breast cancer.

How do I know the recurrence rate for my type of cancer?

There are many types and subtypes of cancer. Recurrence rates are not available for all types of cancer and are not always useful for knowing your own risk of recurrence. It’s important to ask your cancer care team about your risk for recurrence, what to watch for, and what follow-up is needed.

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 editors and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

American Cancer Society. Cancer Treatment & Survivorship Facts & Figures 2022-2024. Atlanta: American Cancer Society; 2022. Accessed at on December 12, 2023.

Primeau ASB. Cancer recurrence statistics. 2018. Accessed at on December 12, 2023.

Last Revised: December 13, 2023

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