A prognosis is a statement about the prospect of surviving and recovering from a disease. It may sound hard to ask, “Can I survive this?” But it’s a question most people have when they learn they have Hodgkin disease. Unfortunately, there isn’t an easy answer.
Your chance of recovery depends on these things:
Type and location of the Hodgkin disease
Stage of the disease
Whether or not you have certain symptoms (known as 'B symptoms')
Size of the tumor (whether it is bulky or not)
Your age (younger people tend to do better)
Your gender (female patients tend to have better outcomes)
Results of certain blood tests
Your general health
How your disease responds to treatment
Before discussing your prognosis with you, your doctor will consider all the things that could affect your disease and treatment. Your doctor will then predict what seems likely to happen. To do that, the doctor will look at what researchers have found out over many years about thousands of people with cancer. When possible, the doctor will use statistics for groups of people whose situations are most like yours to make a prediction.
If your Hodgkin disease is likely to respond well to treatment, your doctor will say you have a favorable prognosis. If the Hodgkin disease is likely to be hard to control, your prognosis may be unfavorable. It is important to keep in mind, though, that a prognosis states what is probable. It is not a prediction of what will happen. No doctor can be absolutely certain about the outcome.
Some people find it easier to cope when they know their prognosis and the statistics for how well a treatment might work. Other people find statistical information confusing and frightening. Or they might think it is too general to be useful. The doctor who is most familiar with your situation is in the best position to discuss your prognosis with you and explain what the statistics may mean for you. At the same time, you should keep in mind that a person’s prognosis may change. A favorable prognosis can change if the cancer progresses. An unfavorable one can change if treatment is successful. The decision to ask about your prognosis is a personal one. It is up to you to decide how much you want to know.
Survival rates show the percentage of people who live for a specific length of time after being told they have Hodgkin disease. The rates are specific to people with a certain stage of Hodgkin disease. Often, statistics refer to the five-year survival rate. That's the percentage of people who live at least five years after diagnosis. The five-year rate includes people who:
Are free of disease
Have few or no signs or symptoms of the disease
Are being treated for the disease
Here are the five-year survival rates based on the stage of Hodgkin disease, according to the American Cancer Society:
For stage I and II Hodgkin disease, the five-year survival rate is about 90 percent.
For stage III disease, the five-year survival rate is about 80 percent
For stage IV disease, the five-year survival rate is about 65 percent.
These numbers are adjusted to account for the fact that some people may die of causes other than Hodgkin disease. As noted above, factors other than the stage of the disease can also affect your prognosis.
Because the statistics we have for five-year rates are based on people whose doctors diagnosed and treated them more than five years ago, it's possible that the outlook could be better today. Recently diagnosed people often have a better outlook because of improvements in treatment. (According to the ACS, the 10-year survival rate for Hodgkin disease is 79 percent.)
Survival rates are based on large groups of people. They cannot be used to predict what will happen to a particular person. No two people are exactly alike, and treatment and responses to treatment vary greatly.