Updated November. 11, 2008 09:21
The prospects of full recovery from stomach cancer are 17 times higher when the disease is detected at Stage 1, the cancer center of Yonsei University Severance Hospital said yesterday.
The center studied every six months 39,625 among 51,982 patients who received treatment and operations at the center between March 1995 and December 2004.
The researchers categorized patients into 12 major cancer types most prevalent in Korea, and in turn classified patients of each category into which stage they belonged to assess their chances of survival over five years.
The earliest stage of cancer is Stage 1 and the most advanced Stage 4, based on a tumors size and its metastatic abilities.
The study is the first on the five-year survival prospects of each stage of 12 major cancer types.
Stage 1 stomach cancer patients were found to have an 85.8 percent chance to survive five years.
The survival rate was 67.5 percent for Stage 2, 38.1 percent for Stage 3, and 10.1 percent for Stage 4, showing that early cancer detection raised the full recovery rate eight times.
The full recovery rate for each stage largely differed by cancer type. While Stage 1 stomach cancer patients had a 93.9-percent chance of surviving five years, that of Stage 4 patients was just 5.5 percent, or 1/17th that of Stage 1 patients.
The result was similar for colon cancer. While 93.4 percent of Stage 1 patients fully recovered, Stage 4 patients were eight times less likely to do so at 11.9 percent.
For thyroid cancer patients, full recovery prospects for Stage 1 patients were 98.5 percent and those of Stage 4 66.2 percent.
The chances of five-year survival were only 37.8 percent for pancreatic cancer, a major type of intractable cancer, even when discovered at Stage 1.
Liver cancer, another deadly form of the disease prevalent in Korea, had a five-year survival rate of just 42.6 percent.
That of a Stage 4 pancreatic cancer patient was 2.5 percent; 4.3 percent for liver cancer in Stage 4; and 1.5 percent for the same stage of lung cancer.
Rah Seon-young, a professor of radiation oncology at Severance Hospital, said, Liver, lung and pancreatic cancer patients have low chances of survival even when the cancer is discovered early because of their resistance to anti-cancer drugs and difficulty in removing them through operations.
Most forms of cancer are difficult to detect early because most do not have early symptoms. Among the patients surveyed, 16.7 percent detected their cancer at Stage 1; 15 percent at Stage 2; 15.6 percent at Stage 3; and 20.6 percent at Stage 4.
Advances in medical technology and the spread of early check-ups have raised the chances of recovery from cancer.
Roh Seong-hun, director of the cancer center, said, The development of effective drugs with less toxicity has extended cancer patients lives and improved their quality of life while fighting the disease.
Stage 4 colon cancer patients have a higher chance of extending their lives by up to two years, defying the conventional belief of just six months left from the point of diagnosis. The chance of survival for Stage 3 patients was 54.2 percent and Stage 4 11.9 percent.
Patients with lung cancer, once considered an intractable disease, can live longer with the introduction of anti-cancer drugs, Roh said. Pancreatic cancer patients are now treated with anti-cancer drugs and radioactive treatment at the same time thanks to advances in medical technology. We are gradually defying the belief that pancreatic cancer is untreatable.