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Breast cancer

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Survival statistics for breast cancer

Survival statistics for breast cancer are very general estimates and must be interpreted very carefully. Because these statistics are based on the experience of groups of people, they cannot be used to predict a particular person’s chances of survival.

There are many different ways to measure and report cancer survival statistics. Your doctor can explain the statistics for breast cancer and what they mean to you.

Net survival

Net survival represents the probability of surviving cancer in the absence of other causes of death. It is used to give an estimate of the percentage of people who will survive their cancer.

In Canada, the 5-year net survival for breast cancer is 87%. This means that, on average, about 87% of women diagnosed with breast cancer will survive for at least 5 years.

Relative survival

Relative survival looks at how likely people with cancer are to survive after their diagnosis compared to people in the general population who do not have cancer, but who share similar characteristics (such as age and sex).

Survival by stage

Survival varies with each stage of breast cancer. Generally, the earlier breast cancer is diagnosed and treated, the better the outcome.

The following statistics are based on an older version of the TNM staging system, before there were subcategories (A and B) in stages II and III.

Breast cancer survival
Stage5-year relative survival

0

100%

I

100%

II

86%

III

57%

IV

20%

 Notes: Stage IIA may have a slightly better survival than stage IIB as the cancer is less advanced. Stage IIIA may have a slightly better survival than stage IIIB as the cancer is less advanced.

Questions about survival

Talk to your doctor about your prognosis. A prognosis depends on many factors, including:

  • your health history
  • the type of cancer
  • the stage
  • certain characteristics of the cancer
  • the treatments chosen
  • how the cancer responds to treatment

Only a doctor familiar with these factors can put all of this information together with survival statistics to arrive at a prognosis.

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