November 5, 2023

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.

Pathologic factors that affect prognosis include:
  • 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.

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

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

About this article

This article was written by doctors to help you read and understand your pathology report. Contact us if you have questions about this article or your pathology report. For a complete introduction to your pathology report, read this article.

Other helpful resources

Atlas of pathology
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