What Factors Affect Breast Cancer Survival Rates?

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

According to some estimates, at least one in eight women will develop some form of breast cancer in their lifetimes. Despite this worrying statistic, breast cancer survival rates are often very high, and many patients experience a full recovery with treatment. Some of the factors that affect breast cancer survival rates are the stage and type of cancer, the race and age of the patient, and whether the cancer is a first infection or a recurring condition.

Cancer stage is an important factor in the survival rate of breast cancer.
Cancer stage is an important factor in the survival rate of breast cancer.

Cancer stage is one of the primary factors that determines breast cancer survival rates. The stage of cancer is determined by the size of the tumor, how far it spreads, and whether it is invasive or non-invasive. Most scales grade breast cancer from stage zero, which is the least invasive, to stage four, which is the most invasive and dangerous stage. Breast cancer survival rates decrease steeply as stages advance; while women with stage two tumors have a survival rate of more than 80%, stage four tumors reduce survival rates to about 15%. Annual breast cancer screening is frequently recommended to all women, to help catch any signs of breast cancer in a very early stage.

Many patients treated for breast cancer experience a full recovery.
Many patients treated for breast cancer experience a full recovery.

The type of cancer can also have an impact on breast cancer survival rates. Ductal carcinoma in situ, or DCIS, is one of the most common types of breast cancer, but also has a very high survival rate. Invasive ductal carcinoma, triple negative cancer, and inflammatory breast cancer are associated with lower survival rates, particularly in advanced stages. The type of cancer is determined during the initial diagnostic period a cancer patient undergoes; along with cancer stage, this may be one of the most significant factors affecting survival.

Mammograms are performed to detect the presence of breast cancer.
Mammograms are performed to detect the presence of breast cancer.

Certain factors about the patient, including age and race, may have an effect on breast cancer survival rates. In general, Asian and Hispanic women not only have lower chances of developing breast cancer than white or black women, they also have significantly higher survival rates. While the risk of developing breast cancer greatly increases with age, survival rates actually increase in older patients, though by a relatively small amount.

Generally speaking, the earlier the stage at which a cancer is caught, the better the prognosis for the patient.
Generally speaking, the earlier the stage at which a cancer is caught, the better the prognosis for the patient.

With some types of breast cancer, a recurrence of the infection can reduce survival rates significantly. Though rates depend on the type and spread of the tumor, recurrent cancer infections are generally associated with a lower survival rate. Some 21st century research shows a significant improvement in survival rates for recurrent breast cancer patients as compared to mid-20th century studies, thanks to improved drugs, better treatments, and increased awareness about screening. Nevertheless, the overall rate of survival still remains significantly lower than in first-time patients.

Certain factors about the patient, including age and race, may have an effect on breast cancer survival rates.
Certain factors about the patient, including age and race, may have an effect on breast cancer survival rates.
The type of cancer has an impact on breast cancer survival rates.
The type of cancer has an impact on breast cancer survival rates.
Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a wiseGEEK writer.

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