Survival of breast cancer based on stage
Statistics are given below for the overall survival rates for breast cancer based on certain stages of disease development.
I made this page many years ago, when there was nothing like this data available on the internet. Recently this page has been up-dated with the most recent statistics that we can find. Prognosis will be even better than the numbers here suggest because modern targeted treatments have improved a lot.
Breast cancer staging is determined by many factors and these include:-
- The presence and size of a tumor
- Whether the tumor is node negative or positive, this means whether lymph nodes are involved or not
- If the cancer has metastasized (or spread) beyond the breast
If breast cancer is diagnosed and it is determined that there is no metastasis to the lymph nodes (node negative, stage I or less) then the chances of survival are extremely good.
Once breast cancer has spread to the lymph nodes the mode of treatment tends to shift to the chemotherapy medicines, and the odds of survival are somewhat lower.
Breast Cancer survival statstics by stage
Some old Charts for Breast Cancer Survival by Stage
|Stages||5 year Survival Rate %||10 year Survival Rate %|
|0 ( in situ )||DCIS or <5mm||98||95|
|Stage I||< 2 cm, node negative||85||75|
|Stage II and III||node positive||55||40|
Here is another earlier bar chart from the years 2001 to 2002 of 5 year percentage survival rate according to stage.
5 Year Percentage Survival Rate by Breast Cancer Stage 2001 to 2002
5 Year Relative Percentage Survival Rate by Breast Cancer Stage 2012 data
The above bar graph is the latest information that we could find on breast cancer 5 year relative survival rates by stage of the disease. The figures were taken from the National Cancer Institute SEER Cancer Statistics Review for 2012.
what does it all mean Doc?
Discussion on the Figures and Bar Graphs
As we can see outlook for breast cancer according to stage has improved immensely since these statistics first started appearing on the internet.
The estimated 5 year survival rates from Dr. Halls early data for Stage I was only 85%. By 2002 this figure has risen to 88% and for 2012 almost a 100% survival rate.
For Stage II the outlook is also much improved. From the 2002 data (for stage IIA and IIB) the survival rate was between 74% and 81%. Again by the latest data (for all grade II stages) the relative percentage survival rate is 93%.
Furthermore Stage III in 2002 had a percentage survival rate of 41% to 49%. However, the 2012 data shows that this percentage has risen to 72% (including the subgrades IIIA and IIIB)
NOTE: Just a word of caution on statistics. The first two graphs are ‘percentage survival rates‘. So, if the figure is, for example, 93% for Stage II breast cancer, this means that 93 out of 100 patients with a Stage II diagnosis will be alive 5 years later.
On the other hand, ‘relative survival rates‘ in the lower table, compares breast cancer sufferers with the general population. So, if the relative survival rate for Stage II breast cancer is 93% this means that people with that diagnosis are 93% as likely to be alive 5 years later as the general population with similar life factors.
A little bit more about Staging and Survival Rates
In general, the lower the grade of the breast cancer on diagnosis the better the prognosis rate.
Obviously if the tumor can be detected and treated before the size of 2cm and before it has affected nearby lymph nodes, then the overall survival rate is very good, as we have seen.
A recent 2012 medical study found tumor size to be a strong predictor for 15 year survival rates in both node-negative and positive groups.
Furthermore, this study shows that tumor size had a greater impact on 15 year survival in the node positive group. The research concluded that screening for more advanced stages of breast cancer could well be more beneficial than for those at an earlier stage.
Age and Stage for Breast Cancer Survival
Research over the years has generally shown that women under 40 years have a poorer than average prognosis. Interestingly, this factor is particularly relevant when the breast cancer is axillary node negative.
A medical study published in 2015 examined 4,453 Swedish women diagnosed with invasive breast cancer between 1961 and 1991 regarding age at diagnosis.
This research showed that women under 40 years had a higher mortality rate both for 5 year and 10 year survival rate.
However, older ladies between ages 70 and 79 and over 80 years had a higher mortality rate in both the 5 and 10 year follow up periods. The statistically worst outcome, after all adjustments for other factors, is for ladies over 80 years.
Furthermore, an earlier research study taken from SEER statistics between the years of 1988 to 2003 found that women under 40 years had lower rates of survival for stage I and II breast cancers.
Conversely, younger women tended to have a more favourable chance of survival at stage III and IV compared with those over 70 years of age.
Age and Stage for breast cancer prognosis
Stage 1 Breast Cancer: The highest survival rates for stage I breast cancer tends to be for women aged 50 to 69 years. Women under 39 have the poorest overall survival rates for stages I and II breast cancers.
Stage II, III and IV Breast Cancers: Women between the ages of 40 and 49 showed the highest survival rates for more advanced breast cancers. Conversely, as we have seen, women over 70 years showed the lowest survival rates for Stages III and IV breast cancer.
Hormone receptor status can influence survival rates
When a breast cancer tumor is sent for histological analysis, one of the characteristics of the report will be the ‘hormone receptor status‘ of the tumor.
Estrogen receptor (ER) and progesterone receptor (PR) positive tumors tend to respond better to chemotherapy. Chemotherapy tends to be the treatment of choice for stage III and IV breast cancers.
Breast cancers which are ‘triple negative‘ (negative for ER, PR, and HER2 receptors) tend to have the least favourable survival rates, regardless of breast cancer stage.
One 2011 research study looked at 269 triple-negative breast cancer patients all treated at the same institution between 2000 and 2006.
This study found that the average age at diagnosis was 55.3 years. The 5 year disease-free survival rate for the whole group was 68.2%. However, the 5 year overall survival rate for the entire group was higher at 74.5%.
Risk of recurrence was higher in the first 3 years following the initial diagnosis. However, the recurrence rate declined significantly after this initial 3 year period.
Other factors that were found to be important factors on survival rates were:-
- Lymph node status
- Size of the tumor
- Lymphovascular invasion
- Age: Ladies older than 65 years had a poorer prognosis
However, ER and PR status tends to have more of an influence on survival than HER2 status. Patients with ER+/PR+/HER2- subtype of breast cancer have an estimated 5-year survival rate of 87.8%.
Overall Breast Cancer Survival rate for all Stages of Breast Cancer
The overall 5 year survival rate for women with breast cancer was 89.7%. That is 89.7 out of 100 women were still alive 5 years after diagnosis, regardless of the stage of the cancer. This figure was taken from the SEERS statistics between the years of 2006 and 2012, so could well be even higher now.
Regional relapse following breast cancer treatment carries a poorer prognosis
Most localized breast cancers are treated by either breast conserving surgery with radiation therapy, or by mastectomy.
A medical study from 2010 estimates that around 40% of all women with breast cancer will suffer a recurrence.
The prognosis following a breast cancer recurrence is influenced by a number of factors. These include:-
- The Disease Free Interval: This is the time elapsed from diagnois and treatment of the first breast cancer to the recurrence
- The location of the recurrence: Whether the recurrence is in the same breast (sometimes called a ‘local recurrence), or if it recurs in the contralateral breast, regional lymph nodes, or the chest wall (sometimes referred to as a ‘regional’ recurrence).
Patients with breast cancer relapses are typically generally treated with either a ‘salvage mastectomy’, or radiation to the chest wall, regional lymph nodes, or both.
Systemic therapy (chemotherapy) may be implemented at this point. However, this will be determined on an individual basis, based on the likelihood of distant metastasis, characteristics of the tumor, and other factors.
Regional recurrence within three years carries a less favorable prognosis, but overall survival statistics are still good.
Generally speaking, if the breast cancer returns ‘regionally’ (either to the chest wall, contralateral breast, or nearby (regional) lymph nodes) within the first five years following original treatment, the overall likelihood of survival is thought to be somewhat poorer.
Five-year overall survival after an isolated chest wall recurrence is 68% and after intra-breast recurrence it is 81%.
In one 2010 medical research study, the ten year overall survival rate was estimated at 84% for women without recurrence. However, this figure goes down to 49% for women with a locoregional recurrence and 72% for women with a second primary tumour.
A large 2015 study examined the impact of the time of the disease free interval on survival rates. For women with a locoregional recurrence that happened in the first 18 months, the ten year overall survival rate is around 30%. The overall 10 year survival rate for those whose recurrence happened within 3 years goes up to 50%. Furthermore, for those who suffered a recurrence after 3 years the ten year overall survival rate increases to 70%.
This recent study clearly demonstrates that the longer the time span since the primary prognosis and treatment to the recurrence, the better the long-term prognosis.
Table of Recurrence Rates
Percentage of women who experience local or regional breast cancer recurrence
|Recurrence place and time interval||Percentage of all cases following BCS with radiation, or mastectomy.||5 year ‘distant metastasis-free’ rate.||10 year ‘distant metastasis-free’ rate||10 year survival rate|
|Local recurrence, within five years||1.7%||61|
|Local recurrence, after five years||1.2%||80|
|Chest wall recurrence, within five years||0.8%||42||52||50|
|Chest wall recurrence, after five years.||0.4%||65||56||62|
|Regional lymph node recurrence (within 10 years)||1%||33||30|
The rate of distance breast cancer metastasis and overall survival is most favorable for women in which the recurrence occurred locally and after five years.
Patients with a greater than five years interval before a local/same breast recurrence have a distant metastasis-free rate of about 80% within five years.
However, women with a same-breast recurrence within five years have a distant metastasis rate of about 61%, which are slightly poorer odds.
For women in which the recurrence of breast cancer happens in the chest wall within five years, the 5-year distant recurrence-free rate is about 42%. By comparison, women with a chest wall recurrence after five years following treatment have a slightly better 5-year post-relapse distant metastasis rate of about .
- Howlader N, Noone AM, Krapcho M, et al (eds) (2013) SEER Cancer Statistics Review, 1975-2010, National Cancer Institute. Bethesda, MD,( Retrieved 08 April 2017) http://seer.cancer.gov/csr/1975_2010/
- Narod SA. (2012) Tumour size predicts long-term survival among women with lymph node-positive breast cancer Curr Oncol. 2012 Oct; 19(5): 249–253. (Retrieved 08 April 2017) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3457875/