Breast cancer survival rates have improved due to awareness, early diagnosis due to new screening procedures, and newer treatments. The future outlook for breast cancer patients is looking better than what it looked a few years before. The prognosis has improved and death rates have been falling since 1989

Breast cancer survival is calculated as the average period (in months or years) for which 50% of the patients survived after treatment. It is also calculated as the percentage of patients alive after 1,5,10 and 15 years. Breast cancer statistics, however, tell of its survival and mortality rates.

Survival rates, though improved, show a variation amongst the two classes of patients:

  • The least deprived or the affluent, and
  • The most deprived or the economically backward

This variation is mainly due to differences in the diagnostic methods used. They were:

The 5-year survival in women diagnosed via screening was as follows:

  • 99% of women were from the least deprived of the affluent class.
  • 94% in women from the least well off

The 5-year survival in women diagnosed symptomatically (women who felt the lump in their breast themselves)

  • 83% of women are from the affluent class.
  • 68% of women are from the poor category.

Screening help in early detection and a better prognosis. Going to see a doctor after feeling a lump in the breast does indicate a late diagnosis and a relatively poor prognosis. This shows a hesitation by the poor class patients of going in for screening probably due to poor awareness or hesitation to spend money or no access to screening centers.

What is meant by 5-Year Survival Rate?

Five-year relative survival rates are more commonly referred to in cancer statistics. It estimates the outcome of the disease, the likely course it will take from the point of its diagnosis.

The 5-year survival rate for breast cancer refers to the percentage of these patients who survive for 5 years after being diagnosed with breast cancer.

There are two types of 5-year survival rates:

  1. Five-year absolute survival rate refers to the percentage of people suffering from cancer, who are alive five years after it was diagnosed. It relies on the percentage of the people suffering from the disease without any reference to the general population
  2. A five-year relative survival rate is more commonly used and refers to the percentage of people suffering from cancer who are alive five years after diagnosis, divided by the percentage of the overall population alive after five years.

Breast Cancer Survival by Stages

Given below are the survival rates of breast cancer after being diagnosed, by its stages. The following figures come from the National Cancer Data Base and are for the years 2001 and 2002. You should read this full note on breast cancer stages.


Stage of breast cancer 5-year survival rate.
0 93%
I 88%
IIA 81%
IIB 74%
IIIA 67%
IIIB 41%
IIIC 49%
IV 15%

As can be seen from the table above, the stage 4 breast cancer survival rate is the lowest indicating that mortality is very high when breast cancer is diagnosed late. Besides the mortality, the treatment costs become higher when the detection is late.

These survival statistics also emphasize the importance of screening in early detection. Steps are necessary to be taken to make screening available to the poorer section of society for a better prognosis and a better breast cancer survival rate.

The success of research in improving breast cancer prognosis is definitely something to write about. The survival rates have improved and the mortality rates have fallen. Research and researchers deserve our appreciation.

Relative Survival Rate by Age

The Five-year relative survival rates by age when diagnosed are as follows:

  • Women younger than 45 years: 88%
  • Age 45-54 years: 91%
  • Age 55-64 years: 91%
  • Age 65-74 years: 92%
  • Age 75 years or older: 86%

Inflammatory breast cancer survival rate

Inflammatory breast cancer is found in an estimated 1% to 5% of all breast cancers. It usually develops in women who are younger than 40 years of age with black women facing a higher risk than white women.

This cancer grows and spreads quickly first to the regional lymph nodes that drain the breast. Therefore, it is often in an advanced local stage when it is first diagnosed.

In about one-third of the cases, this cancer has already spread to distant parts of the body when first diagnosed.

The 5-year survival rate for patients with inflammatory breast cancer is 41%. This means 41 patients out of 100 live for 5 years after being diagnosed.

With the regional spread, the 5-year survival rate is 56%. If cancer has spread to a distant part of the body, the 5-year survival rate is 19%.

Survival and prognosis for metastatic breast cancer (Stage 4)

In metastatic breast cancer, the cancer cells have spread from the breast to other parts of the body. It is classified as advanced (stage 4) breast cancer.

It is important to note that survival rates vary widely among people with stage 4 breast cancer. This type of cancer cannot be cured and yet some people with this disease can survive for many years.

About 1 in 3 women with metastatic breast cancer live at least five years after diagnosis. However, some live 10 years or longer.

There are a number of factors that influence the survival of someone with stage 4 breast cancer. They include the grade of breast cancer, age and general condition of the patient, receptor status, location of metastasis, presence of any cancer complications, and type of treatment.

However, exceptions do rule. Some people with a poor outlook may live for many years, while others with a good prognosis may succumb to the disease much early.

Looking at the data from 2008 to 2014, the National Cancer Institute has reported the overall five-year survival rate for metastatic breast cancer as 27%.