A diagnosis–or even a possible diagnosis–of breast cancer can be scary. But the good news is that men and women who vigilantly examine themselves every month and get yearly mammograms usually survive the disease. In fact, there is a 100 percent five-year cancer survival rate for those who are diagnosed and treated during the earliest stages of breast cancer (specifically DCIS). While the treatments can still be difficult, they are generally easily tolerated and patients can get on with their lives. The more you know about breast cancer statistics, the less you have to worry about the great unknown.
Doctors are so confident that they can treat stage I breast cancer that they give patients a near 100 percent five-year survival rate. Even in cases with a slightly more advanced stage of the disease, there are reasons to be extremely optimistic. The breast cancer survival statistics have been steadily improving from 75% 5-year survival rates for women with invasive breast cancer in the mid-1970’s to 90% at this time. For instance, those with stage IIA have a 92 percent chance of surviving the disease for at least five years, and even those with stage IIIB breast cancer (advanced cancer involving the lymph nodes and skin or chest wall) have a 54 percent survival rate. That’s a better than one in two chance of survival, and a betting person would tell you to take those odds! All things considered, regardless of the odds, The Breast Cancer Society will always bet in favor of survival. With hope, wonderful miracles can and do occur every day with cancer patients.
Breast cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer for women. Every woman has a 12 percent chance of developing invasive breast cancer at some point in her life. In fact, of all the women you know, 1 in 8 will contract some form of breast cancer in her lifetime. While these are scary statistics, it’s important to realize that very few people actually die from the disease. The bottom line is cancer cure rates have been improving and with early detection the statistics are definitely in the patient’s favor. The five year survival rates for patients with localized disease (cancer that hasn’t spread to the lymphnodes) is 98%. The odds 1 out of 50 are definitely in their favor. For patient with lymph node spread, the 5-year survival rate is 84%, and with spread to distant organs or distant lymph nodes it is 24%.The bottom line is, only about 3 percent of women die from breast cancer (lifetime risk after age 40). The odds–1 in 35–are definitely in the patient’s favor.
Another reason for women to have hope is that incidence rates of the disease (in the U.S.) have actually been decreasing for the last decade. From 1999 to 2005, the incidence rate dropped by 2.2 percent, a large number for a disease that affects 12 percent of all women. Likewise, instances of death from breast cancer have been dropping for more than a decade, especially in women under 50. As medical technology continues to improve and women learn more about how they can reduce their risks of developing the disease, these statistics will continue to improve.
It is important for women and their families to understand that, while breast cancer is a very serious disease, it is not a death sentence. Staying alert, getting regular exams and immediately addressing any early warning signs are the best ways to detect possible cancerous cells while they are still easy to treat.