Breast Cancer Survival Rates

Cancer survival rates are typically discussed using the term, 5-year relative survival. This term refers to the proportion of patients alive five years after their diagnosis. In the United States, national data shows that among women with breast cancer, 90.8% are still alive five years after diagnosis.

Early detection = higher survival rate

Patients diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer fare even better. This speaks to the power of breast cancer screening with mammography, which can detect small, early-stage breast tumors in women years before symptoms would appear. The National Cancer Institute records five-year relative survival statistics in these broad categories:

  • Localized disease. Where the cancer is confined to the primary site, survival is 99%
  • Regional disease. Among patients whose disease has spread to regional lymph nodes, survival is 86.3%.
  • Distant disease. Patients with breast cancer that has already spread (metastasized) to distant body areas at the time of diagnosis, survival is 31%.

Learn more breast cancer statistics from the National Cancer Institute.

Factors that affect survival

Some of the same factors that determine the stage of your cancer also impact survival, including: 

  • size of the cancer
  • whether the cancer has spread to any lymph nodes
  • grade of the cancer (what the cells look like under a microscope)
  • breast cancer subtype, defined by the presence of specific proteins called the estrogen receptor, progesterone receptor and HER2.

Learn more about survival statistics for breast cancer subtypes from the National Cancer Institute.

The large majority of women who develop breast cancer in the United States are effectively treated and live out the rest of their natural life — and do not die from breast cancer. The large majority is not 100%. That’s why we must continue to do clinical trials and research.

Kazuaki Takabe, MD, PhD, FACS
Chief of Breast Surgery
Department of Surgical Oncology