Breast Cancer Prognosis

Breast Cancer: What Are Survival Rates?

Survival rates indicate the percentage of people with a certain type and stage of cancer who survive the disease for a specific period of time after their diagnosis. In most cases, statistics refer to the 5-year survival rate. The 5-year survival rate is the percentage of people who are alive 5 years after diagnosis, whether they have few or no signs or symptoms of cancer, are free of disease, or are undergoing treatment. Survival rates are based on large groups of people; they cannot be used to predict what will happen to a particular patient. No two patients are exactly alike, and breast cancer treatment and responses to treatment vary greatly.

Factors Influencing the Prognosis for Breast Cancer

The American Cancer Society estimates that over 200,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and over 40,000 will die each year.
The breast cancer prognosis will depend on:
  • The stage of breast cancer (see Breast Cancer Stages)
  • The breast cancer type 
  • Estrogen-receptor and progesterone-receptor levels in the tumor tissue
  • A woman's age, general health, and whether or not she has gone through menopause
  • Whether the cancer has just been diagnosed or has recurred (come back).

Survival Rates

Survival rates can be calculated by different methods for different purposes. The survival rates presented here are based on the relative survival rate. The relative survival rate measures the survival of breast cancer patients in comparison to the general population to estimate the effect of cancer. The overall 5-year relative breast cancer survival rate for 1995-2002 was 88.5 percent. The 5-year relative breast cancer survival rates by race were:
  • 89.7 percent for white women
  • 77.3 percent for black women.
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