Can cancer be cured?

Yes, but not always.

Cured means that the cancer has gone away, and there is no chance of it coming back. 

Doctors know how quickly certain cancers tend to come back, if they are going to. For example if testicular cancer is going to come back, it tends to be within three years, but breast cancer can come back 15 or even 20 years later.

Because of improvements in treatments people are now living longer after a cancer, often with a good quality of life.

How quickly your doctor can give you the all clear depends on the type of cancer you have.

How likely is a cure?

Whether you can be cured depends on many things. For example:

  • the type of cancer you have – some are easier to cure than others

  • how early your cancer is found – in general the earlier a cancer is found, the higher the chance of a cure

  • whether it has spread, and if so, how much – cancer that hasn’t spread is usually easier to cure

  • your age and state of health – for example, surgery may be more risky if you are elderly or in poor health.

Every patient is different. Your doctor will talk with you about your cancer, and your chances of a cure.

What if it can’t be cured?

Although cancer can’t always be cured, it can always be treated.

Treatment may give a patient many extra months or years of worthwhile, good quality life. It can also relieve the symptoms that cancer may cause, such as pain. Treatment for cancer that can't be cured is often called palliative care.

If my cancer is in remission, am I cured?

Remission can mean one of two things.

If the cancer goes away after treatment and there is no longer any sign of it, this is called a complete remission. It is not the same as a cure, because there may still be cancer cells in the body that the doctors can’t see. It is too early to talk of a cure.

A partial remission means that the cancer has shrunk. Partial remission is not a cure, because the cancer is still there.