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What are the survival rates for rectal cancer by stage?

It is difficult to predict long-term survival rates for anyone with any type of cancer, including rectal cancer.

However, the American Joint Committee on Cancer provides some general information about the 5-year survival rates for patients with rectal cancer. It is based on the stage of cancer at diagnosis.

The 5-year survival rates for rectal cancer are:
  • Stage I: 74%
  • Stage II: 66% to 37%, based on classification as a, b, or c.
  • Stage III: 73% to 28%, based on classification as a, b, or c.
  • Stage IV: 5% to 6%.
Remember, these are general numbers of a large group of patients. Every patient's situation is unique.
The numbers below come from a study of the National Cancer Institute's SEER database, looking at nearly 10,000 people diagnosed with rectal cancer between 1998 and 2000.
These are observed survival rates. They include people diagnosed with rectal cancer who may have later died from other causes, such as heart disease. People with rectal cancer tend to be older and may have other serious health conditions. Therefore, the percentage of people surviving the rectal cancer itself is likely to be higher.
 
Stage I – 74%  5 year survival rate
Stage IIA – 65% 5 year survival rate
Stage IIB – 52% 5 year survival rate
Stage IIC – 32% 5 year survival rate
Stage IIIA – 74% 5 year survival rate*
Stage IIIB – 45% 5 year survival rate*
Stage IIIC – 33% 5 year survival rate
Stage IV – 6% 5 year survival rate
 
*In this study, survival was better for some stage III cancers than for some stage II cancers. The reasons for this are not clear.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.