Breast cancer is a major concern these days, due to its ever increasing incidence. It is one of the most common occurring cancers, particularly in women. One in every 8 women suffers from breast cancer once in a lifetime, that is the 12% of the population of women.
The survival rate associated with breast cancer varies with the degree of advancement of the cancer. Generally, the less advanced the cancer is, the better the survival rates. However, with the successive progression of breast cancer, the survival rate considerably drops. The most advanced breast cancer, in which the cancer generally invades multiple organs, is the most difficult to treat. The prognosis is low and cancer cannot be completely eliminated from the body.
Staging Of Breast Cancer:
Survival rates for breast cancer are based on the stages of cancer. Staging of all types of cancer, including the breast cancer, is a system to differentiate cancer on the basis of its advancement. Staging system basically describes the size of tumor and also how far it has spread. There are 5 stages in total, ranging from stage 0 to stage 4.
- Stage 0 is known as carcinoma in situ. It is the most initial stage of breast cancer. In stage 0, the breast cancer is noninvasive. Some scientists debate to exclude stage 0 from the overall staging system of cancer. This is because the cancer in this stage is categorized benign and it doesn’t always turn into cancer later.
- Stage 1 is the second stage of breast cancer, in which the cancer remains localized to the breast cells. It is generally categorized as low stage cancer.
- Stage 2 cancer is also low stage breast cancer, but the cells start invading the adjacent breast cells. As a result, the tumor grows and the chances of its metastasis (spread to distant organs) increase.
- Stage 3 is advanced stage breast cancer. Cancer is found at regional lymph nodes, which shows metastasis has already started. The cancer in this stage may start invading other organs as well, but does not show. It is difficult to treat breast cancer of stage 3 as local treatments alone cannot completely eliminate the cancer.
- Stage 4 is the most advanced stage of breast cancer, in which cancer spreads to multiple organs. Most commonly, breast cancer metastasizes to the bones, then to lungs and other organs. Stage 4 cancer is generally treatable, but not curable. Consult with your medical doctor.
How To Estimate Survival Rates Of Breast Cancer:
To have an estimation of survival rate in women diagnosed with breast cancer, general and relative survival rates are used. After the treatment of breast cancer, doctors keep a follow up with the patients to monitor cancer recurrence and to estimate the survival rates. Relative survival rates and better than general ones as they minimize the interference of other factors causing morbidity and mortality.
- General Survival Rate:
The general survival rates of breast cancer are based on a period of 5 years. The percentage of survival rate shows how many people are alive for at least 5 years after the diagnosis. Most of the people live more than five years, even much longer than five years. For example, breast cancer diagnosed at stage 1 has 90% survival rate for the women. This means 90 out of every 100 women live 5 years or more after she is being diagnosed.
People diagnosed with low stage breast cancer tend to live longer as the treatment is more effective. They have comparatively high survival rates. On the other side, people diagnosed with high stage cancer have low survival rates. However, the general survival rates are only averages. Many other factors also affects the survival rates, like treatment for cancer, age, comorbidities etc. The other type of estimate; relative survival rates, better estimate the overall chances of survival.
- Relative Survival Rates:
The relative survival rates are more accurate to estimate the survival rate. This is because it compares the women diagnosed with breast cancer with the women not having breast cancer. In this way, the effects of other factors causing increased mortality rate diminishes.
The relative survival rate is different from general survival rate as it estimates the survival chances of women first and then compares it with the normal population. For instance, if the relative survival rate for any stage cancer is 90%, it means that it is 90% as likely to live for the next five years as compared to the population that doesn’t have breast cancer.
5 Year Survival Rates For Breast Cancer:
The survival rates give an outlook for the women having breast cancer. Always keep in mind that this outlook is just an estimate and it is specific to a woman’s circumstances. It doesn’t predict your chances or response to the treatment. To have an idea, below are the statistics of breast cancer survival rates (American Cancer Society). However, for accurate information about yourself, consult your doctor or oncologist.
- Stage 0 And Stage 1:
The 5 year relative survival rate for stage 0 and stage 1 breast cancer is almost 100%. This is because it is easy to treat the low stage cancer before it becomes aggressive. The prompt treatment gives excellent prognosis.
- Stage 2:
For stage 2 breast cancer, the relative survival rate is about 93%. This survival rate is still high because stage 2 breast cancer is also relatively low stage cancer. It is easy to treat the cancer and results are also good as the cancer in stage 2 is localized to breast cells.
- Stage 3:
Stage 3 breast cancer is relatively high stage cancer as the cancer has begun to spread. The relative survival rate for stage 3 breast cancer is about 72%. But often, women are successfully treated for the breast cancer.
- Stage 4:
The most advanced stage of breast cancer is stage 4 that is also known as terminal cancer. As cancer spreads to multiple organs in this stage, the survival rate considerably declines. The relative survival rate for this stage breast cancer is around 22%. Generally, it is difficult to treat stage 4 breast cancer and the treatment outcomes are poorer. However, there are many options women can look into that may offer some relief during this stage.
There Is More To Know About Survival Rates:
Survival rates are based on the outcomes of a large population. However, survival rates cannot predict any women’s case. The overall survival chances depend largely on the unique circumstances of the patient. Apart from stage of cancer and the treatment methods, there are many other factors that determine the good prognosis of the intervention. The body’s response to the treatment and patient’s will power are two out of many important factors.
Second, the available statistics of survival rate are formed over a course of a 5 year time period. In recent years, better intervention methods are discovered and implemented. These treatment regimens have drastically improved the prognosis. The survival rates for breast cancer for now may vary with the quoted data that is collected in the past.
Third, these survival rates are based on when the cancer was first diagnosed. They do not predict or apply to the recurrence of breast cancer (the cancer that comes back).
Your doctor can best guide you about your situation and your survival chances. Feel free to talk to your doctor about your concerns.
Breast cancer affects a large number of women and its incidence is increasing over time. However, due to new interventions and better technology, the prognosis is getting better. Staging of breast cancer greatly determines the extent of survival. With low stage cancer, survival rates are high. On the other hand, with the advancement of breast cancer, survival rates decline. These survival rates are only estimates and they don’t determine any specific case. Talk to your doctor for a better understanding.