Breast Cancer

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Early Detection, Diagnosis, and Staging TOPICS

Breast cancer survival rates by stage

Survival rates are often used by doctors as a standard way of discussing a person's prognosis (outlook). Some patients with breast cancer may want to know the survival statistics for people in similar situations, while others may not find the numbers helpful, or may even not want to know them. If you decide that you do not want to read them, skip to the next section.

The 5-year observed survival rate refers to the percentage of patients who live at least 5 years after being diagnosed with cancer. Many of these patients live much longer than 5 years after diagnosis.

A relative survival rate (like the numbers below) compares the observed survival with what would be expected for people without the cancer. This helps to correct for the deaths caused by something besides cancer and is a more accurate way to describe the effect of cancer on survival. (Relative survival rates are at least as high as observed survival, and in most cases are higher.)

In order to get 5-year survival rates, doctors have to look at people who were treated at least 5 years ago. Improvements in treatment since then may result in a more favorable outlook for people now being diagnosed with breast cancer.

Survival rates are often based on previous outcomes of large numbers of people who had the disease, but they cannot predict what will happen in any particular person's case. Many other factors may affect a person's outlook, such as your age and health, the presence of hormone receptors on the cancer cells, the treatment received, and how well the cancer responds to treatment. Your doctor can tell you how the numbers below may apply to you, as he or she is familiar with the aspects of your particular situation.

The available statistics do not divide survival rates by all of the substages, such as IA and IB. The rates for these substages are likely to be close to the rate for the overall stage. For example, the survival rate for stage IA is likely to be slightly higher than that listed for stage I, while the survival rate for stage IB would be expected to be slightly lower.

It is also important to realize that these statistics are based on the stage of the cancer when it was first diagnosed. These do not apply to cancers that later come back or spread, for example.

The rates below come from the National Cancer Institute’s SEER database. They are based on the previous version of AJCC staging. In that version stage II also included patients that would now be considered stage IB.

    Stage

    5-year Relative
    Survival Rate

 

    0

    100%

    I

    100%

    II

    93%

    III

    72%

    IV

    22%


Last Medical Review: 09/25/2014
Last Revised: 09/25/2014