Cancer survival

National statistics on cancer survival

The NICER coordination centre (NCC) regularly publishes information on population-based cancer survival along with incidence, mortality and prevalence, in order to provide a comprehensive picture of the cancer situation in Switzerland.

Cancer survival estimates are important for assessing the overall effectiveness of health systems. It entails comparing survival between sub-populations in Switzerland, or with other countries, and the observation of time trends. 

A «survival proportion» (often termed survival «rate») is defined as the proportion of patients alive at certain intervals after their diagnosis, and the «survival time« as the temporal interval between diagnosis until death or until last known date when the patient was alive. 

It is expected that successes in the fight against cancer gives rise to larger proportions of cancer patients alive and prolonged survival times due to postponing or even preventing death with cancer as the cause. On the other hand, larger survival proportions and longer survival times cannot always be equated with improved survival in the intended sense. «survival time» may also be prolonged simply by earlier diagnosis, even if (theoretically) the date of death remains unchanged. Earlier diagnosis is in many cases effective in postponing or preventing death due to cancer, but it is difficult to correctly allocate surplus survival to earlier diagnosis and postponed death. Survival estimates should therefore never be interpreted in isolation, but always in concert with incidence and mortality data and together with contextual health system information.

NCC monitoring about cancer survival in Switzerland is divided in two parts: