When one talks of breast cancer and treatment, the secondary question is its survival rate. Survival rates give patients an idea of the extent of their cancer as well as the treatments that are available to them. We often hear of five-year survival rates for each stage of breast cancer, but what exactly is breast cancer survival rate?
Breast cancer survival can be described in the following ways:
- Period of time : 5 or 10 years, that a woman lives after diagnosis
- Risk of reoccurrence
- Risk of death when compared to others with the same illness
The first is the more popular method. Since the survival rate is commonly categorized according to stages, some points about the stages of breast cancer first.
Stage 0 cancer is the non-invasive type. Cancer cells remain within the walls of the place where they are discovered. For Stage I, the tumor is invasive and is about 2 centimeters long. Stage IIA cancer means that tumor is 2-5 centimeters. With Stage IIB cancer, the tumor may be less than 2 centimeters but a few axillary lymph nodes are affected. For Stage IIIA cancer, the tumor is more than 5 centimeters or it has reached more lymph nodes. Stage IIIB cancer is characterized by the tumor invading the breast skin, regardless of its size. Stage IV cancer is the most advanced form, where the cancer cells have moved far from the breast and have infected other organs of the body as well.
Stages are also described as early (Stages 0-IIA), later (Stage IIB and III) and advanced (Stage IV).
When diagnosed with breast cancer it is the stages that will determine the treatment plan.
In computing the survival rate, researchers take note of the percentage of women who survive for a specific period of time, say, 5 years, after diagnosis of breast cancer. The current survival rates for all breast cancer stages are:
- Five-year survival rate - 86%
- Ten-year survival rate - 76%
Women with no metastatic breast cancer have a 5-year survival rate of 96%, while those with metastatic breast cancer have a 5-year survival rate of 21%
Here are the 5-year survival rates according to stage:
- Stage 0 - 100%
- Stage I - 100%
- Stage IIA - 92%
- Stage IIB - 81%
- Stage IIIA - 67%
- Stage IIIB - 54%
- Stage IV - 20%
Remember that these are estimates only. Some actually live longer than 7 years, depending on the medication and lifestyle changes that they make. After 7 years survival rates decrease.
Other factors that affect survival
Preliminary studies have been conducted regarding factors that can affect survival. There are promising results with respect to factors such as changing your diet and lifestyle. While the results are not conclusive yet, it still makes sense to maintain a healthy lifestyle. While there is no direct connection between exercise and increased survival rate, studies showed that exercise improved the quality of life of survivors, such as higher self-esteem, improved mood and better sleep patterns. The same holds true for group psychological therapy. Being able to express their feelings and support for other survivors had positive effects on their quality of life. Smoking increases the risk of the spread of cancer, as there may be metastasis of cancer from breast to lung.
The importance of early detection cannot be overemphasized. When detected early, the correct treatment can then be administered and once treated, there is less risk for the cancer to spread or recur. That is why doctors and breast cancer advocates encourage regular testing and screening for all women. This is necessary even after treatment because there is still a risk of recurrence.
Conduct a self breast exam monthly. If necessary, have clinical tests such as mammograms and MRI scans. Ask your doctor for more information on breast cancer and search the web for answers from experts.
Breast cancer survival rates are mere estimates. Some patients actually live longer than 5 or 7 years. Changes in diet and lifestyle can increase a patient's survival rate. Live a healthy lifestyle by eating more fruits, vegetables and fiber, and avoid alcohol intake.
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