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Median Survival Definition

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Updated September 20, 2012

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Definition:

Median survival is defined as the time after which 50% of people with a particular condition are still living, and 50% have died. For example, a median survival of 6 months would indicate that after 6 months, 50% of people with that condition would be alive, and 50% would have passed away.

Median survival is often used to describe the prognosis (the chance of survival) of a condition when the average survival rate is relatively short, such as for lung cancer.

Median survival is also a term used in clinical trials, when a drug or treatment is being evaluated to see if it will extend life.

Examples:

Jack was told that the median survival for people with stage 3B lung cancer is 13 months. This would mean that, statistically, he had about a 50% chance of being alive with his disease in 13 months.

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