Breast Cancer Prognosis

A prognosis is a medical opinion as to the likely course and outcome of a disease in an individual patient. Factors that affect the prognosis for breast cancer include the stage of the cancer, the type of breast cancer, and estrogen-receptor and progesterone-receptor levels in the tumor tissue. While a doctor considers many factors and looks at many statistics (such as survival rates) to make a prognosis, it's important to remember that there is no way to predict with certainty the outcome of any individual case.

Breast Cancer Prognosis: An Overview

People who are facing breast cancer are naturally concerned about what their future holds. Understanding breast cancer and what to expect can help patients and their loved ones plan breast cancer treatment, think about lifestyle changes, and make decisions about their quality of life and finances. Many people with breast cancer want to know their prognosis, so they may ask their doctor or search for breast cancer statistics on their own.
 

What Is a Prognosis?

A prognosis is a medical opinion as to the likely course and outcome of a disease. In other words, the prognosis is the chance that a patient will recover or have a recurrence (return of the cancer).
 
Factors that can affect a person's prognosis include:
 
  • The type and location of the cancer
     
  • The stage of the disease (the extent to which the cancer has metastasized, or spread)
     
  • Its grade (how abnormal the cancer cells look and how quickly the cancer is likely to grow and spread)
     
  • The person's age, general health, and response to treatment.
     
When doctors discuss a person's prognosis, they carefully consider all of the factors that could affect that person's disease and treatment, and then try to predict what might happen. The doctor will base the breast cancer prognosis on information researchers have collected over many years about hundreds or even thousands of people with cancer. When possible, the doctor will use statistics based on groups of people whose situations are most similar to that of an individual patient's.
 
The doctor may speak of a favorable prognosis if the cancer is likely to respond well to treatment. The prognosis for breast cancer may be unfavorable if the cancer is likely to be difficult to control. However, it is important to keep in mind that a prognosis is only a prediction; the doctor cannot be absolutely certain about the outcome for a particular patient.
 
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