About the Oral Cancer Survival Calculator: Overview

The Oral Cancer Survival Calculator was developed by the National Cancer Institute's Surveillance Research Program (SRP). It is intended to make it easier for persons diagnosed with oral cancer, clinicians, and others to access and interpret cancer survival data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program. The calculator aims to give people with oral cancer and their clinicians the best available population-based estimates of that person’s short (up to about 5 years) and long-term (from 5-10 years) survival. The calculator is based on methodology described in two publications in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery.

This “About” section of the website provides detailed background information about the Oral Cancer Survival Calculator, including the statistics (estimates) it generates and methodologic concepts concerning how the calculator was developed and how it operates. You may also be interested in reading the briefer summary information on Oral Cancer: Key Things to Know

What statistics does the calculator provide for a person diagnosed with oral cancer?

This calculator presents statistics on the chances of surviving, dying of cancer, and dying of other causes. It uses the date of diagnosis as the starting point for calculating the probability that a person will survive their cancer for one to nine or ten years after diagnosis. It uses age as the starting point for calculating estimates of other-cause survival—that is, the probability that the person will survive other (coexisting) health conditions that he or she may have.

Usually, cancer survival statistics focus only on deaths caused by cancer. Focusing on deaths caused by cancer is useful for measuring progress in fighting cancer at the population level, such as in the United States as a whole. But for an individual, it is more meaningful to think about the chance that he or she will die from cancer and the chance that he or she will die from other causes (e.g., congestive heart failure).

The Oral Cancer Survival Calculator provides three kinds of estimates:

  1. Survival (and death) that are specific to the person’s age, race, gender, overall health, and some of the characteristics of the oral cancer.
  2. Life expectancy of the person if he or she did not have oral cancer.
  3. Health status adjusted age (HSAA). HSAA is the estimated age of a person taking into account his or her health status at the time of cancer diagnosis. It is calculated by adding or subtracting a specific number of years from the person's chronologic age to account for good or poor health from conditions other than their cancer at the time of diagnosis.

Depending on your age and whether you see a doctor regularly, you will be directed through one of three pathways to generate your estimates:

  • Basic Calculator – if you are under the age of 40.
  • General Health Self Assessment Calculator – if you are age 40 or older and do not have any of the specified other health conditions or do not see a doctor regularly.
  • Coexisting Condition Calculator – if you are age 66 or older and have other specified serious health conditions.

Learn more about how each option in the Oral Cancer Survival Calculator generates these estimates.

The estimates produced by this tool are only some of the many pieces of information to weigh in making treatment decisions. For example, a person can consider estimated years of life remaining and values and needs related to quality of life, and the potential benefits and side effects of different cancer treatment options. Ultimately, each case is unique.

What else should a person know about the calculator?

This calculator is not a comprehensive aid for making decisions. It does not take all things into account, for example the genomic profile of the tumor. Also, the calculator does not estimate the effect of specific treatment options on a person’s survival or include information about all the benefits, risks, and expected side effects that need to be considered in making treatment decisions. This important information needs to be obtained from other sources.

Learn more about limitations of the Oral Cancer Survival Calculator.

Articles about the calculator