Open Access Open Badges Research article

Conditional survival of cancer patients: an Australian perspective

Xue Qin Yu12*, Peter D Baade34 and Dianne L O’Connell1256

Author Affiliations

1 Cancer Research Division, Cancer Council New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

2 Sydney School of Public Health, The University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia

3 Viertel Centre for Research in Cancer Control, Cancer Council Queensland, Brisbane, Australia

4 School of Public Health, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia

5 School of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of NSW, Sydney, Australia

6 School of Medicine and Public Health, University of Newcastle, Newcastle, Australia

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BMC Cancer 2012, 12:460  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-12-460

Published: 8 October 2012



Estimated conditional survival for cancer patients diagnosed at different ages and disease stage provides important information for cancer patients and clinicians in planning follow-up, surveillance and ongoing management.


Using population-based cancer registry data for New South Wales Australia, we estimated conditional 5-year relative survival for 11 major cancers diagnosed 1972–2006 by time since diagnosis and age and stage at diagnosis.


193,182 cases were included, with the most common cancers being prostate (39,851), female breast (36,585) and colorectal (35,455). Five-year relative survival tended to increase with increasing years already survived and improvement was greatest for cancers with poor prognosis at diagnosis (lung or pancreas) and for those with advanced stage or older age at diagnosis. After surviving 10 years, conditional 5-year survival was over 95% for 6 localised, 6 regional, 3 distant and 3 unknown stage cancers. For the remaining patient groups, conditional 5-year survival ranged from 74% (for distant stage bladder cancer) to 94% (for 4 cancers at different stages), indicating that they continue to have excess mortality 10–15 years after diagnosis.


These data provide important information for cancer patients, based on age and stage at diagnosis, as they continue on their cancer journey. This information may also be used by clinicians as a tool to make more evidence-based decisions regarding follow-up, surveillance, or ongoing management according to patients' changing survival expectations over time.

Conditional survival; Relative survival; Cancer registry; Australia