While about 1 in every 43 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their 50s, the disease is much more common in women ages 60 and older.

A metastatic breast cancer (MBC) diagnosis can turn your world upside down. Understanding the statistics surrounding MBC in your 50s can help you think more clearly about what lies ahead.

MBC is also known as stage 4 breast cancer or advanced breast cancer.

Stage 4 breast cancer is defined as having abnormal cancer cells that start in the breast. Then, they spread or metastasize to other areas of your body, such as your:

  • lungs
  • brain
  • liver
  • bones

Stage 4 is the most serious stage of breast cancer. Most often, breast cancer is diagnosed in earlier stages. But it’s possible to receive a diagnosis when the cancer reaches this stage.

It can be a challenge to combat MBC, but there are many new treatment regimens that can help improve your outlook.

If you’re 50 years of age, the probability of developing breast cancer in the next 10 years is 1 in 43 or 2.3 percent.

Keep in mind, however, that this is the average risk for the entire population. Your risk could be higher or lower depending on several factors. This includes:

  • your genetics
  • childbearing history
  • age of menopause
  • contraceptive use
  • race

For example, if you go through menopause after age 50, your risk for breast cancer is slightly higher.

The risk of a breast cancer diagnosis increases with age. This is because as we get older, abnormal changes in our cells become more likely.

Researchers estimate that 1 in 8 women who live to age 80 will get the disease.

From 2012 to 2016, the median age at the time of breast cancer diagnosis was 62 years. This means that one-half of women diagnosed with breast cancer were 62 years of age or younger at the time of diagnosis.

The chance of a breast cancer diagnosis is the highest for women in their 70s.

Survival rates have been improving since the late 1980s and early 1990s. Here are a few statistics about breast cancer survival for all women and specifically women in their 50s:

  • According to the American Cancer Society, the 5-year survival rate for those with breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body is 27 percent for women of all ages.
  • Though the rate of new female breast cancer cases has been rising each year over the last 10 years, death rates have been falling on average 1.8 percent each year from 2007 to 2016.
  • According to one study, there were no remarkable differences in the average survival rate between younger and older women with MBC.
  • Another study found that women ages 40 to 60 had better overall survival and breast-cancer specific survival than women both under 40 and over 60. However, this study didn’t differentiate by cancer stage.
  • Yet another study found that younger women with MBC (under 50 years of age) had the best outlook, followed by women ages 50 to 69. People older than 69 years of age had the highest risk of dying.

If you have MBC, the following can affect your outlook:

  • your overall health
  • the presence of hormone receptors on the cancer cells
  • how well the cancer responds to treatment
  • if you have side effects to your treatment
  • the extent of the metastases (how far and how many places the cancer has spread)

In addition, research shows that women in higher socioeconomic groups have a higher survival rate than women in lower socioeconomic groups.

The most common symptom of late-stage breast cancer is a lump in the breast, as well as one or more of the following:

  • skin changes, such as dimpling
  • nipple discharge
  • nipple retraction (turning inward)
  • swelling of all or part of the breast
  • swollen lymph nodes under your arm or in your neck
  • differences in the shape of the affected breast
  • fatigue
  • pain
  • trouble sleeping
  • digestive issues
  • shortness of breath
  • depression

Your exact symptoms with MBC will likely depend on how much, and where, the cancer has spread in your body.

In recent years, many new treatment options have emerged for MBC, greatly improving survival rates.

Your oncologist will assess your individual case, including your breast cancer subtype and overall health, in order to determine a treatment plan.

Since the cancer has already spread to other areas of your body, your treatment will likely be a more “systemic treatment” so that it treats all parts of the body involved.

Treatment may include one or a combination of the following:

  • chemotherapy
  • radiation
  • hormone therapy, such as tamoxifen or an aromatase inhibitor
  • targeted therapies, such as trastuzumab (Herceptin)
  • newer drugs such as CDK 4/6 inhibitors and PARP inhibitors
  • pain management
  • surgery (less common in this stage)

Breast cancer isn’t as common in your 50s as compared to your 60s and beyond, but it still affects millions of people each year.

While an MBC diagnosis is more serious than breast cancer diagnosed at earlier stages, keep in mind that women being diagnosed now may have a better outlook than what the statistics show.

Treatments improve over time, and these statistics are based on women who were diagnosed and treated in past years. New therapies are often safer and more effective.