What is my short-term and long-term prognosis?

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Define the short term and long-term prognosis

Prognosis is a word that comes from the Greek word for “forecast.” It is a medical term for predicting how a disease will likely or expectedly progress, such as how quickly the signs and symptoms will get better or stay the same over time; how likely it is that the disease will get worse or stay the same; and how likely it is that the person will live (including life expectancy).

This is commonly used for chronic diseases which are those illnesses that persist for more than 2 weeks, examples include hypertension, diabetes, and cancer. Short term means approximately 3 months while long term means the duration of more than 3 months.

Most of the time, doctors use statistics to estimate a patient’s prognosis, aligned with the principle of evidence-based medicine. Cancer patients may come across the term “5-year relative survival rate”, which means the percentage of surviving patients in 5 years excluding those with other causes of death. For example, 92% 5-year relative survival rate for early-stage cervical cancer means 92 out of 100 women with early-stage cervical cancer can survive after 5 years from diagnosis.

Factors affecting prognosis

There are several factors affecting prognosis.

The severity of the disease, when found or diagnosed, is very important for doctors to determine the patient’s prognosis and make the best treatment choice for the patient for optimum remaining life and prognosis. In overview, early-stage cancer or early-onset disease has a relatively better prognosis than late-stage cancer or late-onset disease. For example, the American Cancer Society stated a 29% and 99% 5-year relative survival rate for distant spread and localized breast cancer respectively between 2011 and 2017.

There are many possible complications of chronic illnesses if left untreated or as a consequence of treatment. For example, lymphoma patients having tumor lysis syndrome repeatedly due to chemotherapy will have a lower prognosis compared to patients who have a good response to the chemotherapy regimen. Tumor lysis syndrome is a common oncologic emergency in which a patient presents with multiple metabolic abnormalities such as metabolic acidosis, hyperkalemia, and hyperuricemia; this condition is a fatal condition if not discovered at the time.

The age of the patient is also another important variable factor in determining the prognostic rate. It can be caused by better immunity levels among adults compared to children and the elderly besides the possibility of multiple chronic diseases in the same patient.

The doctor chooses the best drug for the patient based on the overall health profile to maximize response to treatment and minimize the possibility of side effects from drugs. Patients who don’t take doctor’s advice on medication or are not compliant tend to have a lower prognosis over time due to exhaustion and worsening conditions. Autoimmune diseases like psoriasis, for example, need a lot of switching of drug choices and doses regularly to relieve the patient’s symptoms effectively with the least possible side effects.

Monitoring and follow-up require action between doctor and patient. Through these visits, the doctor can understand the condition better and provide a personalized management plan. On the patient side, they are more aware of their conditions and side effects from drugs or treatment by getting consultations. These effective bilateral communications will help greatly to improve the patient’s prognosis and life quality.

How to improve prognosis

The important concept to take away about chronic illnesses is that the term “cure” cannot fit perfectly for them. Doctors provide treatment options to control or relieve your symptoms as these diseases have chances to worsen or come again, we name them relapses or recurrences. Prevention of relapses and reduction of symptom frequency is highly important to pertain to your life quality. In other words, patients with chronic diseases need to live at peace with chronic diseases to live as normally as possible. There are some tips to help these patients.

1. Stay positive; happy vibes will certainly make you feel better about yourself and sometimes improve your health. Don’t isolate yourself and try to engage with hobbies and social activities as much as possible. Even a good laugh or quality time with family can help to cheer you up!

2. A healthy lifestyle including good food, quality exercise, and rest can ensure you obtain optimum nutrition and normal functioning of body systems for better symptom control and disease progression.

3. Good compliance with drugs or treatment plans; come to the doctor regularly and discuss your concerns. Doctors will not be able to help you if you don’t raise your questions and solve the issue together.

Don’t hesitate to Ask a Doctor about your medical concerns.

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