When you’re diagnosed with breast cancer, it’s natural to wonder about breast cancer survival rates.

Breast cancer is serious. However, it’s also common and highly treatable, with continuing advances in treatment.

While statistics provide a useful overview and general outlook information, everyone is different. Your doctor can provide more details about the particulars of your specific case.

When assessing the outlook of cancer, doctors use a measurement called the 5-year survival rate.

The 5-year cancer survival rate is a comparison based on the overall population. For example, if your cancer has a 90 percent 5-year survival rate, that means you’re 90 percent as likely as someone without cancer to live for at least 5 years after your diagnosis.

To determine 5-year survival rates, the American Cancer Society (ACS) uses information from a database called Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER). This database groups cancer into one of three stages:

  • Localized: There’s no indication that cancer has spread beyond the original location.
  • Regional: The cancer has spread, but only to nearby lymph nodes.
  • Distant: The cancer has spread beyond nearby lymph nodes, to areas different from the original location.
Breast cancer stage5-year survival rate — women5-year survival rate — men
all stages90%84%

The earlier doctors find cancer, the easier it is to treat.

Doctors use a system called staging to assess how far cancer has spread.

The TNM staging system

The American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) has devised a system that looks at several factors when staging cancer:

  • T — the size of the tumor(s) given as a score from 0 to 4
  • N — the spread to lymph nodes given as a score from 0 to 3
  • M — the presence of metastasis given as a score that is either 0 (no metastasis) or 1 (the cancer has spread to distant sites such as the liver or lungs)
  • ER — the estrogen receptor status
  • PR — the progesterone receptor status
  • HER2 — whether the cancer makes a certain amount of the protein HER2
  • G — the grade of cancer, or how closely the cancer cells resemble normal cells

Doctors assess all this information and assign a stage ranging from l (1) to lV (4). The lower the number, the less advanced the cancer is, and the more likely it is that treatment will be successful.

Doctors use the term “cured” when there’s no longer any sign of your cancer 5 years after your diagnosis. For many cancers, the chance of a recurrence at this stage is very low.

However, a future relapse is still possible since cancer cells can remain in the body for many years.

Doctors used to consider metastatic breast cancer (MBC), or stage 4, as rapidly progressing in all instances.

Now as many as 10 percent of people with stage 4 breast cancer can achieve long-term and relapse-free survival. This is because of new targeted treatments, like human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) drugs.

Stage 4 is cancer that’s spread outside of breast tissue and nearby lymph nodes to other locations in the body.

Understanding more about manageable stage 4 cancer can help doctors know who can benefit from aggressive treatment. There are three categories of information that doctors assess:

  • patient characteristics
  • pathologic characteristics
  • biologic disease characteristics

The type of tumors that you have can affect your chance of long-term survival. A 2014 study found that hormone receptor-positive (HR+) tumors were more associated with a longer lifespan than triple negative (TN) tumors.

In the same study, metronomic regimen (drug combination) treatments were higher in the long-term survival group, indicating that treatment type can influence outcomes.

A more recent 2021 study examined the effectiveness of immune-oncology (IO) agents and demonstrated improved progression-free survival when IO was combined with chemotherapy. This benefit affected all breast cancer subtypes in the study, including triple negative breast cancer.

Breast cancer is one of the most curable cancers. It’s also the second most common cause of death in women with cancer. According to the ACS, the chance of a woman dying from breast cancer is about 2.6 percent.

Breast cancer is common, but in many cases, it’s curable if it’s detected early.

Your outlook for breast cancer is better with early detection. Even so, there are people who survive metastatic disease.

According to the ACS, the 10-year relative survival rate for women with breast cancer is 84 percent, and the 15-year survival rate is 80 percent. These statistics include all stages of cancer.

It’s important to remember that long-term statistics include people who received their diagnoses many years ago. This means that these statistics don’t reflect the more recent improvements in cancer treatment.

The ACS recommends regular breast cancer screening, particularly if you have a risk factor like a family history of breast cancer. Screening can help you detect cancer before symptoms start, which can improve your outlook significantly.