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Cancer is a disease where a particular group of cells in the body grow in an uncontrolled manner at an abnormal pace. These cancerous cells invade the nearby healthy tissues and often metastasize or spread to other parts of the body, through the blood or lymph. Though most of the types of cancer start with a benign tumor, leukemia is the only exception. The severity or progression of cancer can be described in five stages (including stage 0);
  • Stage 0: The cancerous cells are present at the place of development, and haven't yet begun metastasis.
  • Stage 1: The cancer has spread only in one part of the body. This stage is also called carcinoma in situ.
  • Stage 2: This is the stage where the disease has advanced in the lymph nodes on one side of the diaphragm.
  • Stage 3: The third stage is more severe than the second stage as the cancer has affected the other lymph nodes and has begun spreading to other organs in the body.
  • Stage 4: This is the final stage, where the carcinoma has completely metastasized or spread throughout the body and the condition cannot be reversed. In this stage, the cancer has overpowered the immune system of the body, making it susceptible to other infections.
Stage 4 Cancer Prognosis
Stage 4 cancer, as we have already seen is that stage of cancer, in which the cancerous cells have spread from their site of origin, to other parts of the body. It is also called metastasis or metastatic cancer. Stage 4 cancers cannot be cured, which is why it is the most dangerous. Nevertheless, they can be treated to some extent. Chemotherapy is given to prolong the life of the patients, but it comes with various side effects. However, open surgeries are not effective treatment methods, thus, not carried out in stage 4.

Nobody can put a figure on how long will people with stage 4 cancer will live. Doctors may be able to predict which patients are more likely to be cured of the cancer in earlier stage of cancer, however, they cannot predict how long anybody will live. Some cancer patients do remarkably better than the others, thus, it's not possible to predict the life expectancy in any manner. Chemotherapy, drugs, etc. don't give any idea as to how long a person suffering from cancer might live.

Cancer survival statistics are mostly drawn from large studies, where approximate predictions are made based on observation. However, these studies cannot be generalized, because a large number of factors have to taken into consideration, when prognosis is to be estimated. Factors like extent to which cancer has spread, age, gender, other health problems, one's response to treatment, will power to live, latest medical developments, etc. will all play crucial roles in lengthening the life expectancy.

Thus, we have to understand, stage 4 cancer prognosis is not an individual prediction tool. It's more of a general prediction tool. Prognosis is helpful, when it comes to understanding the kind of treatment available, its effectiveness and side effects. Survival statistics may seem encouraging to some, but may seem equally discouraging to others, which is why some choose to ignore statistics completely.

Lung Cancer
Since this is the final stage of cancer, the chances of survival are low. The saddest part about lung cancer is that it is mostly detected in the final stage, which leaves little room for treatment. In stage 4 of lung cancer, the carcinoma has metastasized from the chest to other organs in the body. Lung cancer can start as a benign tumor, in either lung, which may become malignant and spread to the entire lung. Lung cancer can be classified into two types; small cell lung cancer (SCLC) and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). SCLC type is the most aggressive and dangerous of all lung cancers, however, is also the most responsive type to chemotherapy.

Prognosis of stage 4 lung cancer depends upon the type of lung cancer, the size of the tumor, the locations to where it has spread, and the overall health of the patient. The life expectancy of those with SCLC, is only about 2 to 4 months, when left untreated. Only 5 to 10% of people in stage 4 of SCLC live up to 5 years. In the NSCLC type, only 10 to 15% people are found to live up to five years. As compared to other cancers, like breast cancer, prostate cancer, etc. the overall prognosis of lung cancer is poor, and the survival rate of lung cancer is lower than other cancers.

Colon Cancer

Bowel cancer, also known as colon cancer affects the colon, rectum and appendix. The colon cancer, which is also called the colorectal or Duke's D colon cancer is the most severe in the final stage, where it has advanced and spread to the lymph nodes and other parts of the body, commonly to the liver. The prognosis of the end stage of colon cancer depends on the outcome of the disease, the type and location of the tumors and the stages of diagnosis. The patient's age, health condition and response to the treatment provided are all considered during the prognosis. However, the outcome of the disease will vary according to the affected individual. The prognosis depends on the stages, the location and type of the cancer. These factors are taken into consideration while assessing the disease and methods of treatment. During the last stage, chemotherapy for colon cancer and radiation might be considered to reduce the severity and increase the colon cancer life expectancy. The colon cancer survival rate depends upon the stage and the survival rate is only 8 percent for the fourth stage.

Liver Cancer

Though medical technology has advanced, liver cancer cannot be treated completely. There are four stages of liver cancer, with the formation of a tumor in the liver in the initial stages. In the second and third stages, the cancerous tumor penetrates the blood vessels forming small tumors, which tend to increase in size. The fourth and final stage is called the metastasized liver cancer, since the carcinoma has spread to the entire liver and has destroyed the function of the organ. The doctor may advice the patient to have a liver cancer prognosis to diagnose the disease and predict the outcome. The type of disease is also helpful in the metastatic liver cancer prognosis as it determines the origin. As in the case of secondary liver cancer, where the tumor may originate in the bowel, stomach or pancreas and spread to the liver. An early detection will be beneficial to stop the spread of this disease and undergoing a liver transplant can increase the survival rate.

Brain Cancer

The brain is the most important organ of the body and the center of the nervous system. Sometimes, due to abnormal growth of cells in the brain, brain tumors are formed. Brain tumors, if not diagnosed in time, can result in brain cancer. According to oncologists, brain cancer is one of the deadliest types of cancer. It is essential to detect the presence of this lethal disease in its early stages, as stage 4 may lead to very less chances of survival for the patient. The factors that affect the stage 4 prognosis are age, especially if the person is under 60 years of age, previous medical history, the location of the brain tumors and the response to the treatment administered. However the prognosis is quite poor, since the cases differ due to various outcomes. The survival rate is 33 percent and the life expectancy is 1 to 2 years, but in most cases it is fatal, as there is no proper cure for one of the worst types of cancers.

Stomach Cancer

Gastric cancer, more commonly known as stomach cancer occurs due to an abnormal growth of cells in the inner lining of the stomach. People who eat foods rich in spices and salt, pickled or smoked foods, consumption of alcohol and tobacco and a family history of gastritis are more prone to stomach cancer. People who are above 60 years of age are the common victims of this deadly disease and is observed more in men. Gastric or stomach cancer prognosis mainly depends on the stages of cancer, the age and the general health condition of the patient. The survival rates, when the condition is diagnosed in the initial stages, depends on the location and spread of the cancer in the stomach. Studies have shown that the survival rate of the patient is up to 50 percent, if the disease is diagnosed early. But sadly, only 10 to 15 percent of the cases are diagnosed in the initial stages. The overall five year survival rate of stomach cancer is roughly 20 percent.

Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer occurs due to the genetic mutation of cells in the pancreas leading to uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells. It is very hard to detect pancreatic cancer in the early stages as the symptoms do not surface till the disease has reached advanced stage. One of the most dangerous stages of pancreatic cancer is the stage 4 of this harmful disease, where it becomes difficult to surgically remove the cancer as it tends to spread to the distant organs like the liver and the lungs. The end stage prognosis method for this cancer is not exact, as it is difficult to predict the symptoms which may lead to the end stage. The chances of survival are very less as only 15 percent of the patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer are able to survive for roughly five years after the diagnosis.

Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer is a result of the development of genetic mutations in the cells, which may be inherited or random. This may cause the cells in the ovaries to grow at an abnormal rate. Ovarian cancer prognosis depends on the characteristics of the cancerous cells. The severity can be determined by staging. In the first stage, the cancer has not spread beyond the ovaries. In the second and third stages, the cells have spread throughout the pelvis and into the lymph nodes and abdomen. Stage 4 ovarian cancer indicates that the cancer has metastasized and has spread into the lungs and liver. Without proper treatment, it is difficult to have a stage 4 cancer prognosis since the symptoms may vary. The age of the individual, general health condition and response to the treatment play a major role in the prognosis. The survival rates of this disease are not very encouraging, as only 35 percent of the women are cured. The main reason is the absence of screening tests and the late detection that reduces the life expectancy and diminishes the chances of survival to near impossible. Other complications that arise due to ovarian cancer are kidney problems, blockage in the intestines and inability to eat. To increase the survival rate, it is necessary to monitor the health and report any changes in the body to a gynecologist.

Prostate Cancer

Prostate is a gland, shaped like a walnut, in the male reproductive system that helps in the secretion of seminal fluid. Sometimes the prostate gets enlarged due to some uncontrolled cell division, leading to tumorous outgrowths in the gland, resulting in prostate cancer. The cancer is divided into stages, namely, local stage, regional stage and distant stage, depending on the severity of the destruction of cells. The last stage i.e the stage 4 prostate cancer is the stage where the disease has metastasized from the seminal vesicles (the ducts that carry the semen) to other organs of the body. Sometimes the cancer also invades the bones. The growth rate is rather slow when compared to other cancers. The early symptoms are usually unnoticeable in most of the cases. Factors like genetics and diet are responsible for the development of this condition. For the prognosis of the final stage, the individual may have to undergo certain diagnostic tests like Digital Rectal Exam (DRE) and Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA). The methods of treatment are radiation, surgery called radical prostatectomy, a procedure where the affected prostate and the nearby tissues are removed surgically, and certain medications. The survival rate depends on the causes and treatment of prostate cancer. The survival rate in the local and regional stages is 100 percent, whereas in the distant stage it is only 31 percent. Though the advanced stage may be difficult to cure, with the help of effective treatment, the life expectancy of the patient can be increased to approximately 10 years.

Though a permanent cure for cancer has not yet been discovered, due to many modern technologies and medications, survival rate of stage 4 cancer and the life expectancy of a patient can be increased, to some extent.