Breast Cancer Survival: By The Numbers

The survival rate for people diagnosed with breast cancer is pretty good (80 percent recover and go on to live for at least 10 years) but the ordeal can easily be overwhelming. Still, there have been steady improvements made in both longevity and quality of life for those undergoing treatment.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that about 220,000 women and 2,000 men in the U.S. are diagnosed with breast cancer annually.

When you are diagnosed and at what stage your breast cancer is in at the time of diagnosis are very large determinants of your rate of survival. The American Cancer Society report that 5-year survival rates break down by stage as follows:

  • Stage 0-1: Approximately 61 percent of all breast cancers are diagnosed at this stage, and it has close to a 100 percent survival rate.
  • Stage 2: Relative survival rate of 93 percent.
  • Stage 3: Relative survival rate of 72 percent.
  • Stage 4: Relative survival rate of 22 percent.

Whether your cancer is in situ – has not spread – or is invasive and metastasizing contributes to defining the stage of your cancer.

The grade of your cancer cells also plays a role. A cancer's grade (from 1 to 3) is an indication of how much difference there is between an individual's cancer cells and healthy cells. It also indicates how quickly the cancer cells seem to be growing. A grade of 1 indicates that the cancer is slow growing and less likely to spread.

In 25 percent of all breast cancer cases, the HER2 gene creates excess amounts of HER2 protein which in turn makes the cancers more likely to spread, to return, and to grow more quickly.

Your cancer's hormone receptor status also plays a role in how the disease may be treated, and your survival outlook. Around 80 percent of all breast cancers are “ER-positive,” meaning that the cancer cells grow in response to the hormone estrogen. Another 65 percent of these are also “PR-positive.” That is, they grow in response to the hormone progesterone. If your breast cancer has a good-sized number of receptors for either estrogen or progesterone, it is considered hormone-receptor positive and more likely to respond to hormone therapy, increasing your survivability chances.


Sources: Medical News Today