How Long Can Breast Cancer Patients Live?

  • Medical Author:
    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.

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

    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.

Ask the experts

My mother is fairly young (early 50s), and she was just diagnosed with breast cancer. I'm trying to figure out what I should expect going forward. How long can breast cancer patients live?

Doctor's response

Survival rates are a way for health care professionals to discuss the prognosis and outlook of a cancer diagnosis with their patients. 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. As with all statistics, although the numbers define outcomes for the group, any individual's outcome has the potential for a wide range of variation.

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.

For more information, read our full medical article about breast cancer symptoms, signs, treatment, and prognosis.

REFERENCES:

"Overview of the treatment of newly diagnosed, non-metastatic breast cancer"
UpToDate.com

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Reviewed on 10/4/2017