What does prognosis mean?

Prognosis describes a doctor’s best estimate about the course of a disease and the likelihood of recovery. Conversations between a doctor and a patient about prognosis are common after a cancer diagnosis although it can apply to any medical condition.

A disease that can be cured through surgery or other forms of medical care are usually referred to as having a “good” prognosis. Diseases with good prognosis are rarely the direct cause of death for a patient. In contrast, diseases that are likely to come back, spread to other parts of the body, or result in death are usually referred to as having a “poor” prognosis.

If you have been diagnosed with cancer, your prognosis will depend on many factors including:

  • The type of tumour.
  • The size of the tumour.
  • The location of the tumour.
  • How early the cancer was discovered.
  • Whether the cancer has spread (metastasized) to other parts of the body.
  • Your age and overall health.

Prognostic factors

Specific pathological features that provide information about prognosis are called prognostic factors. One of  the most important roles of a pathologist is to examine a tumour for specific prognostic factors and to carefully document them in your pathology report.

Important prognostic factors that may be in your pathology report include:

This information is important both for patient education and planning treatment.

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