Cancer Overview

  • What is considered a cancer case?
    • A cancer surveillance case is any reportable cancer as defined by a set of uniform criteria used to define cancer for public health surveillance. If a person is diagnosed with breast cancer and colorectal cancer, each of these cancer diagnoses will be counted as a separate cancer case.
  • What are cancer incidence rates?
    • Cancer incidence rates are a standard way to report the new cancer cases occurring in a population.  They are typically reported as the number of new cancer cases per 100,000 people per year.
  • What are cancer mortality rates?
    • Cancer mortality rates are a standard way to report the number of deaths that are attributable to cancer.  Cancer mortality rates are typically reported as the number of deaths attributed to a certain cancer per 100,000 people per year.
  • How are the United States (U.S.) incidence rates estimated?
    • The U.S. incidence rates are estimates from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program of the National Cancer Institute’s 18 regions.
  • Which morphology codes are included in each cancer site grouping?
    • The adult cancers (ages 20+) are grouped in accordance with the SEER Site Recode.
  • Are the rates age-adjusted?
    • Yes, the incidence and mortality rates are age adjusted to the 2000 U.S. standard population (19 age groups – Census P25-1130).

Types of Cancer

  • Why does the trend line for the U.S. begin with the year 2000?
    • The data that we use to estimate the incidence rates for the United States is the cancer incidence data from SEER’s 18 regions (which represents 25% of the U.S. population).  This database begins with diagnosis year 2000, because this was when several of the 18 regions joined the SEER program.
  • Why are mortality rates unavailable for Triple-Negative Female Breast Cancer, Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer, and Small Cell Lung Cancer?
    • Cancer mortality data is stratified by the SEER Cause of Death Recode, which is not broken down into cancer subtypes.

Cancer Stage

  • What is cancer stage?
    • Cancer stage is an assessment of the severity of a cancer at the time of diagnosis.
  • What does it mean when a cancer is discovered at an early stage?
    • If a cancer is discovered at an early stage, it means that the abnormal cells (in situ) or the cancer (localized) remain within the part of the body that it originated.
  • What does it mean when a cancer is discovered at a late stage?
    • If a cancer is discovered at a late stage, it means that the cancer has spread to the areas surrounding the point of origin (regional) or that the cancer has spread to other sites in the body, far from the original place that the cancer developed (distant).
  • How are stage at diagnosis percentages calculated?
    • Stage at diagnosis percentage is calculated by dividing the stage in question (numerator) by all stages (denominator). The denominator includes counts of unknown/unstaged and in situ (breast and colorectal cancers only).

Cancer Survival

  • What is 5-year relative survival?
    • A survival rate describes the percentage of people who are alive at a certain interval after being diagnosed with cancer. In this visualization, 5-year relative survival is presented, which illustrates the percent of people who are alive 5 years after their cancer diagnosis and takes into account deaths from other causes in that same population.

Pediatric Cancers

Cancer Survivors

  • Who is a cancer survivor?
    • A cancer survivor is a person that has EVER received a cancer diagnosis, from the day of diagnosis to the end of his or her life. This is not the same as being “in remission.” Epidemiologists refer to this as cancer prevalence (people previously diagnosed with cancer who are still alive. Prevalence doesn’t tell us anything about cancer risk (who is more likely to get cancer); it is used to tell us the characteristics of those who have been diagnosed that live in our communities now.
  • Are these numbers exact?
    • No. These are estimates, based on models and where survivors lived when they were diagnosed. Geographical distribution may have shifted over time. Additionally, because counts below 16 are not released to protect the identity of the cancer survivors, the sum of the parish level data may not add up to the regional or statewide totals.
  • If a parish has a high number of cancer survivors, does this mean that people in that parish are at an increased risk of getting cancer?
    • No. The number of survivors does not indicate risk of getting or dying from cancer. A large number of cancer survivors in an age group, a parish, or a certain sex or race DO NOT indicate a higher cancer risk in those groups. The number of cancer survivors tend to align with the demographics of the general population. For example, if there are more prostate cancer survivors who are white than black, it doesn’t mean white men have a higher risk of getting prostate cancer. It means there are more white men in the population than black men.
  • Prevalence is the number of cancer survivors alive on a certain day. Which date was used for these cancer survivor (prevalence) estimates?
    • The numbers represent the estimated number of cancer survivors on January 1, 2016.


The Louisiana Tumor Registry is supported by the SEER Program (NCI), the National Program of Cancer Registries (CDC), the State of Louisiana, the LSU Health Sciences Center – New Orleans, and host institutions.

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