Know Cancer

forgot password
  • Breast Cancer Survival Rates

    The data used to determine breast cancer survival rates can be looked at in several different ways.

    There is a 5-year survival rate also called “relative survival” rate that measures how many patients live for five years or more after their cancer is diagnosed. Many patients live much longer than five years and some may die in that time of other unrelated causes.

    Another method used to measure breast cancer survival rates is by comparing women with breast cancer to women in the general population. This is called an overall survival rate. There is also a program called SEER that stands for Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results. This program measures women with breast cancer against women in the population without breast cancer; however, the SEER program bases its information on loosely defined stages of breast cancer.

    In the past 30 years survival rates have improved dramatically due to better screenings and earlier detection. The diagnosis of later stages of cancer also continues to drop. With continued research and new treatment methods these statistics are always improving.

    There continue to be somewhat lower survival rates seen in African American women as compared to white women. This is partly due to African American women being diagnosed with different types of tumors that have worse prognosis. Also, fewer early screenings and less access to good healthcare are believed to affect the survival rates.

    Relative Survival Rate

    As mentioned, the relative survival rates are based on how many women live five years or longer after their breast cancer has been diagnosed. According to the following are 5-year survival rates based on information gathered in 2001-2002.

    Stage 1 = 88%
    Stage 2 = 74% – 81%
    Stage 3 = 49% – 67%
    Stage 4 = 15%

    Overall Survival Rates

    Overall survival rates are based on breast cancer statistics as compared to women in the general population who do not have breast cancer. As an example, the overall survival rate for stage 1 cancer is 88%. This means that a woman who was diagnosed with breast cancer has an 88% chance of surviving for five years after her diagnosis as compared to a woman without breast cancer. The following statistics of overall survival rates were taken from

    Stage 1 = 88%
    Stage 2 = 74% – 81%
    Stage 3 = 49% – 67%
    Stage 4 = 15%


    SEER stands for Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results program. It is a program that tracks cancer information on a national level in the United States. The information is different from the others because the SEER description for the different stages of cancer is different. This information is more useful for policy makers than for individuals dealing with cancer.

    Stage Survival Rate

    In situ = 100%
    Localized = 98.6%
    Regionalized = 83.8%
    Distant = 23.4%

    Each patient is different and there are many factors that come into play when attempting to determine survival rates. Lifestyle, genetics, the type of cancer, the staging, and breast cancer treatment options available all need to be taken into consideration. It is important to check with your doctor for your specific diagnosis.