Survival Rates for Thymus Cancer

Survival rates are often used by doctors as a standard way of discussing a person’s prognosis (outlook). Some patients with cancer want to know the survival statistics for people in similar situations, while others may not find the numbers helpful, or may even not want to know them. 

The 5-year survival rate refers to the percentage of patients who live at least 5 years after their cancer is diagnosed. Of course, many people live much longer than 5 years (and many are cured). Although many patients live much longer than this, it isn’t always an indication that the cancer has been cured, as some thymus tumors are very slow growing, and others may return in some people several years after treatment.

To get 5-year survival rates, doctors have to look at people who were treated at least 5 years ago. Treatment may have improved since then which could result in a more favorable outlook for people now being diagnosed with thymus cancer.

Survival rates are often based on previous outcomes of large numbers of people who had the disease, but they cannot predict what will happen in any particular person’s case. Many other factors may affect a person’s outlook, such as the histologic type of thymus cancer, the treatment received, whether it was completely removed with surgery, and the patient’s age. Your doctor can tell you how the numbers below may apply to you, as he or she is familiar with your particular situation.

Because thymus cancers are not common, it is hard to find accurate survival rates based on the stage of the cancer. The numbers below come from a large series of patients treated in Japan between 1990 and 1994. They look separately at patients with thymoma (types A, AB, and B) and thymic carcinoma (type C thymoma). Also, these are observed survival rates. People with thymus cancer can die of other things, and these numbers don’t take that into account.

    Stage of thymoma

    5-year observed
    survival rate

    I

    74%

    II

    73%

    III

    64%

    IV

    45%

    Stage of thymic carcinoma

    5-year observed
    survival rate

    I and II

    74%

    III

    33%

    IV

    24%

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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.

Last Medical Review: October 4, 2017 Last Revised: October 4, 2017

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