Breast Cancer

  • Medical Author:
    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Dr. Balentine received his undergraduate degree from McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. He attended medical school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine graduating in1983. He completed his internship at St. Joseph's Hospital in Philadelphia and his Emergency Medicine residency at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center in the Bronx, where he served as chief resident.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

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Quick GuideBreast Cancer Diagnosis, Symptoms, and Treatment

Breast Cancer Diagnosis, Symptoms, and Treatment

What are breast cancer survival rates by stage? What is the prognosis of breast cancer?

Survival rates are a way for health-care professionals to discuss the prognosis and outlook of a cancer diagnosis with their patients. Patients have to determine if they want to know this number or not and should let their health-care providers know.

The number most frequently discussed is five-year survival. It is the percentage of patients who live at least five years after they are diagnosed with cancer. Many of these patients live much longer, and some patients die earlier from causes other than breast cancer. With a constant change in therapies, these numbers also change. The current five-year survival statistic is based on patients who were diagnosed at least five years ago and may have received different therapies than are available today.

All of this needs to be taken into consideration when interpreting these numbers for oneself.

Below are the statistics from the National Cancer Institute's SEER database.

StageFive-year survival rate
0100%
I100%
II93%
III72%
IV22%

These statistics are for all patients diagnosed and reported. Several recent studies have looked at different racial survival statistics and have found a higher mortality (death rate) in African-American women compared to white women in the same geographic area.

Is it possible to prevent breast cancer?

There is no guaranteed way to prevent breast cancer. Reviewing the risk factors and modifying the ones that can be altered (increase exercise, keep a good body weight, etc.) can help in decreasing the risk.

Following the American Cancer Society's guidelines for early detection can help early detection and treatment.

There are some subgroups of women that should consider additional preventive measures.

Women with a strong family history of breast cancer should be evaluated by genetic testing. This should be discussed with a health-care provider and be preceded by a meeting with a genetic counselor who can explain what the testing can and cannot tell and then help interpret the results after testing.

Chemoprevention is the use of medications to reduce the risk of cancer. The two currently approved drugs for chemoprevention of breast cancer are tamoxifen (a medication that blocks estrogen effects on the breast tissue) and raloxifene (Evista), which also blocks the effect of estrogen on breast tissues. Their side effects and whether these medications are right for an individual need to be discussed with a health-care provider.

Aromatase inhibitors are medications that block the production of small amounts of estrogen usually produced in postmenopausal women. They are being used to prevent reoccurrence of breast cancer but are not approved at this time for breast cancer chemoprevention.

For a small group of patients who have a very high risk of breast cancer, surgery to remove the breasts may be an option. Although this reduces the risk significantly, a small chance of developing cancer remains.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/23/2016

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