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Cancer is said to be in stage 4 when the cancer is in a metastasized state, and has spread to the nearby lymph nodes and other parts of the body, such as the bones, liver, lungs, or brain. The cancer may have been diagnosed for the first time once it's in stage IV, or may the recurrence of a previous cancer. Life expectancy depends on various factors such as type of cancer, its location, age of the individual, gender, presence of hormone receptors on cancer cells, etc.

How far the cancer has spread at the time of diagnosis, also determines the life expectancy. The survival rates of stage IV cancer are the lowest, and treatment carried out at this stage aims at prolonging the life of the patient as much as possible, and relieving the symptoms. Chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery, may be carried out to control the cancer, however, they won't be able to cure it.

Stage IV Cancer Life Expectancy

The survival rate is often expressed as life expectancy of cancer patients in the next five years. For example, a five year survival rate of 40% means that out of 100 cancer patients diagnosed for the particular type of cancer, 40 people live for 5 years or longer. However, it is very difficult to predict an exact survival rate, since the life expectancy of the person is highly circumstantial.

Each individual is different, and every cancer patient's situation is unique. The cancer affects each patient differently, thus, the prognosis cannot be generalized. Nevertheless, research has been conducted, and life expectancies have been analyzed over a 5-year period. The data obtained from such studies help doctors determine the treatment line, and are strictly for reference alone. They are not meant to be used for predicting a patient's life expectancy.

Moreover, the statistics available today are not up to date, and does not take into account the latest developments in the field of medicine. Thus, these numbers are only observed survival trends, and cannot be taken as Biblical truth. Many patients even outlive the 5-year mark.

Stage 4 Survival Rate for The Common Types of Cancer

Here are the 'observed' survival rates for some commonly occurring forms of cancer. The data given here is as per that given by American Cancer Society and National Cancer Institute's SEER database.

Breast Cancer

One good thing about breast cancer is that it is often detected at a very early stage, which allows you to explore several treatment options. Stage 1 breast cancer has an excellent survival rate of 93%, which eventually drops down to 15% in stage 4.

Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers affecting older men. This cancer grows really slowly and usually doesn't spread out of the prostate gland. However, some types can multiply rapidly and lower the survival rate to 28% in stage 4.

Lung Cancer

There are two forms of lung cancer: small-cell lung carcinoma (SCLC) and non-small cell carcinoma (NSCLC). SCLC is a fast-spreading form of lung cancer, and the survival rate in stage 4 is only 1%, however, only 15% of those diagnosed with lung cancer have SCLC. NSCLC on the other hand is the more common form of lung cancer, and grows slowly in the body. But in stage 4, its survival rate is also a mere 2%.

Liver Cancer

Liver cancer is also of two types: primary liver cancer and secondary liver cancer. The former type is quite rare, and most cases of liver cancer are seen due to metastasis. In most cases, liver cancer is detected in the later stages, making treatment very difficult. The prognosis for liver cancer in stage 4 is only 3%.

Bladder Cancer

Bladder cancer is the 6th most common type of cancer in the United States. There are different types of bladder cancer: transitional cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, small-cell carcinoma, and sarcoma. Depending on the type and rate at which the cancer spreads, the survival rate varies. In stage 4, the life expectancy is 15%.

Ovarian Cancer

The type of ovarian cancer will differ depending on the location of cancerous cells. The survival rate for invasive epithelial ovarian cancer is 18%, while for fallopian tube carcinoma, it is 40%. Low malignant potential ovarian tumors have a life expectancy of 77% in stage 4.

Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer is a dangerous type of cancer as it tends to spread very quickly. Moreover, only less than 10% of cases are detected in early stages in which the tumor is confined in pancreas. In the exocrine pancreatic cancer type, the prognosis for stage 4 is only 1%, however, in case of pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors, the survival rate is 15% in stage 4.

Skin Cancer

The most dangerous type of skin cancer is melanoma skin cancer, which accounts for over 10,000 deaths each year. In stage 4, the survival rate is only 15%, however, most melanomas are detected in the earlier stages and can be treated.

Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid cancer is three times more common in men, as compared to women. The papillary type has a survival rate of 51%, the follicular type has a survival rate of 50%, and the medullary type of thyroid cancer has a survival rate of 28% in stage 4.

Kidney Cancer

The life expectancy in stage 4 of kidney cancer is only 8%. However, since this cancer mostly affects people in old age, deaths can be caused by other health conditions, such as heart ailments, etc., as well.

Anal Cancer

Anal cancer can be of two types: squamous anal cancer or non-squamous anal cancer, depending on the cell types. The survival rate for squamous anal cancer type in stage 4 is 21%, while the non-squamous type has a survival rate of only7% in stage 4.

Stomach Cancer

It is a leading cause of deaths in the United States. Due to delayed symptoms, it is often detected in the later stages of the advancement of disease. This reduces the survival rate to a mere 4% in stage 4.

Cervical Cancer

This slow-growing, uncommon type of cancer occurs mainly in women above the age of 30. However, since cervical cancer is diagnosed at an early stage, deaths caused by this cancer have been reduced. Nevertheless, stage 4 survival rate of cervical cancer is only 15%.

Esophageal Cancer

Esophageal cancer is more commonly seen in older men. If diagnosed at an early stage, it can be cured with proper treatment, however, if diagnosed in stage four, there is only a 3% chance of survival. Esophageal cancer is often diagnosed in the later stage, which reduces its overall survival rate.

Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the US, thus, regular screening of the colon is very important. Early diagnosis can help treat the cancer and cure it. However, in once the cancer spreads to different parts of the body, the survival rate is only 6%.

Vaginal Cancer

An uncommon form of cancer, vaginal cancer is seen to affect only 1% of women. The survival rates for vaginal cancer are better than other cancers, with a survival rate of 57% in stage 4.

Testicular Cancer

Common form of cancer affecting men, testicular cancer has a good survival rate as compared to other cancers. Even in the metastasized form, the survival rate is a good 72%.

It's important to remember that this data hasn't been provided to predict a cancer patient's life expectancy. There are reports of several cancer patients living beyond the 5-year and even 10-year time frame. The survival rates should only be used for getting a better understanding of the severity of different cancers.

Disclaimer: This Buzzle article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.