Cancer Treatment: What Is the Difference Between Survival Rate and Success Rate? 

by | Nov 15, 2023 | Cancer Treatment, CyberKnife Treatment Miami Florida

One of the first questions cancer patients ask their doctor is: “What is my chance of survival?”

To answer that question, doctors often turn to rates or statistics. While those are not perfect, they are oftentimes the best tool doctors have to answer tough questions. Yet these rates are often impersonal and daunting.

The experts at The CyberKnife Center of Miami — a state-of-the-art free-standing radiation cancer treatment center — understand that. That is why while we want our patients to understand the statistics, we want them to know they are NOT statistics to us. 

Each patient is unique with unique needs and concerns. When it comes to cancer treatment centers, you want to choose a center – like CyberKnife Miami – where the patient — not the statistics — comes first.

Still, it is important to know the difference between survival and success rates to make informed decisions about your cancer treatment plan. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, survival rate is the percentage of people who survive a certain type of cancer for a specific amount of time.” Survival rate, however, is different from success rate. Yet the two are often intertwined.

Success rate often refers to how well specific treatments work for a specific type of cancer.

Let us take a closer look to further differentiate.


Cancer Survival Rates

The American Society of Clinical of Oncology (ASCOS) says survival statistics are based on type of cancer, stage of cancer and a specific time period. That means it is the percentage of those with a cancer diagnosis who will be alive after a certain period of time.

For cancer patients, researchers generally base statistics as a five-year relative survival rate. That means the percentage of patients who will be alive after a diagnosis – excluding those who die from another disease. They also use the stage of cancer to determine survival statistics because survival varies by stage.

The five-year relative survival rate includes patients in remission and those receiving treatment.

There are other survival rates too. The disease-free survival rate is the percentage of patients in total remission after treatment complete. And the progression-free survival rate means the cancer is still present, but it is stable. In other words, it is the percentage of patients who had no cancer growth or spread during or after treatment.

Interestingly, according to the Mayo Clinic, the effects of any treatment discoveries will not change survival rates for at least five years, so there is a lag time. However, these survival statistics inform doctors and patients about a treatment plan, where they can evaluate risks versus benefits. 

That is where success rates may play a role.


Treatment Success Rates

Success rates tend to come into discussion when developing a treatment plan and weighing the pluses and minuses of that plan. 

One treatment may have a higher success rate, but also harsher side effects. That treatment may be right for one patient, but not another. And it is a very personal decision.

According to a study of cancer treatments from 1955 through 2006, 25%-to-50% of new cancer treatments that reached assessment in a randomized clinical trial did “prove successful.”

Again, remember there is a lag time between how new treatments affect survival rates.


Am I Cured of Cancer?

A word about cure: It is not totally applicable to cancer patients. Doctors consider a cancer patient “cured” if they cannot detect cancer in that patient five years after diagnosis. However, because cancer cells can go undetected and remain in the body, there is always a chance of recurrence according to ASCOS. 


CyberKnife Treatment 

CyberKnife – which uses stereotactic body radiation therapy or SBRT to kill the cancer – can successfully treat cancers of the prostate, lungs, breast, liver, kidneys, pancreas, head and neck, lymph nodes and brain as well as other metastatic cancers.

CyberKnife’s missile guidance technology enables the SBRT to track a tumor’s movement in real time. The technology delivers radiation directly to the tumor, while leaving healthy surrounding tissue virtually unharmed. This way it can deliver high doses of radiation in a shorter period. (1 to 5 treatments) With CyberKnife, patients often need a shorter course of treatment than with traditional radiation because SBRT is targeted radiation. 

CyberKnife has been used for more than two decades and has been studied in clinical trials. It has helped hundreds of thousands of patients – even patients who were told they could not have more radiation, or their tumors were inoperable.

Here are a few other benefits of cancer treatment with CyberKnife:

  • Excellent control of tumors
  • Lower risk of damage to healthy tissue
  • Better quality of life while undergoing treatment
  • Fewer treatments than with traditional radiation
  • Most areas of the body can receive multiple treatments with CyberKnife, and some areas can be retreated if needed.


Cancer Treatment Center Miami

The CyberKnife Center of Miami opened its doors 20 years ago and was the first CyberKnife center to open in the Southeast United States. 

Since that time, we have successfully treated thousands of patients from South Florida and around the world.

If you are interested in learning more about CyberKnife Miami call us at 305-279-2900 or go to our website