Breast cancer life expectancy: Statistics and outcomes


If you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer and you’re concerned about how long you’ll live, you’re not alone. Even if doctors say, “your situation looks good,” many people worry about life expectancy after a cancer diagnosis.

A number of factors go into a general picture of how long someone might live after a breast cancer diagnosis. These include how far the cancer has spread, how the cancer is behaving, how well the treatment is working, health status before diagnosis, age, and more. And when you're looking for answers, a survival statistic might seem like dependable information.

However, statistics are not personalized to your specific situation. Statistics help researchers understand how breast cancer affects large groups of people, not any individual person. Average percentages often reflect thousands of people in research done years ago — but never just one person, today.

While we can generally say that someone with stage 0 breast cancer has a better survival rate than someone with stage IV breast cancer, we can also say that people being diagnosed with breast cancer right now may have better survival rates than current numbers show. That's because it takes time to track and record survival rates, and these numbers are often a few years behind new advances in treatment.

The American Cancer Society reports that U.S. breast cancer death rates decreased by 43% between 1989 and 2020. Research shows that this is likely the result of advances in breast cancer treatment. According to the ACS, breast cancer screening and awareness also play a role.

Here are the American Cancer Society's latest relative survival rates:

Relative survival rates for U.S. women diagnosed with breast cancer

  • 91% at 5 years post-diagnosis
  • 84% after 10 years
  • 80% after 15 years

Source: American Cancer Society, Breast Cancer Facts & Figures, 2022-2024

On this page, we'll help you understand how survival rates are estimated and different ways that survival rates are tracked, including by age, race and ethnicity, gender, stage, and subtype.

It's important to remember that your situation could be very different than what is shown in the numbers on this page. If you have concerns about how long you'll live, talk with your healthcare team about the individual factors that contribute to your overall life picture.


How survival rate is estimated

Survival rates for all cancers are estimated by looking at data on large numbers of people who have a certain type of cancer. Researchers gather information about the people over periods of time, such as five years, 20 years, or longer.

Living Beyond Breast Cancer, like the American Cancer Society, uses U.S. survival rates based on data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program, known as SEER, of the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The NCI works with the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries to gather this information from every state in the U.S. on an ongoing basis.

For breast cancer, the SEER database uses five-year relative survival rates. A five-year relative survival rate is the number of people likely to be alive five years after a breast cancer diagnosis, not including people who die from other diseases.

For example, if a certain stage of breast cancer has a five-year relative survival rate of 90%, it means that on average, people diagnosed with that cancer are about 90% as likely to live at least five years post-diagnosis as people not diagnosed with that cancer.

Survival rates can help your medical team get a better understanding of your prognosis: the likely course of the breast cancer. Following people for at least five years is an important part of survival rate calculations.

An older woman looks directly at the camera, serious

Survival rate by stage

Stage is an important factor in determining the prognosis of cancer, because in general, the higher the stage, the lower the five-year survival rate. Below is a table showing the five-year relative survival rate for localized, regional, and distant breast cancer. These categories are defined as follows:

  • Localized breast cancer is invasive cancer found only in the breast. It does not include ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS).
  • Regional breast cancer is invasive cancer that spreads to nearby parts of the body, such as the chest wall or lymph nodes.
  • Distant breast cancer is invasive cancer that spreads to other parts of the body, such as the lungs, liver, bones, and brain.
SEER stage 5-year relative survival rate
Localized 99%
Regional 86%
Distant 30%
All SEER stages combined 91%

*These rates are based on women who were diagnosed between 2012 and 2018.

It’s important to know that the survival rate for your type of breast cancer may be different than what’s represented in this chart. Here are some reasons why:

  • The numbers in the chart above represent women diagnosed and treated many years ago. As treatments improve, survival rate numbers can change.
  • These numbers also do not factor in certain cancer characteristics such as grade, hormone receptor status, or HER2 status.
  • These numbers also don’t consider age or overall health.
  • These numbers also don’t consider how well a cancer treatment may work in your body.
  • These numbers do not include the approval of new drugs that have affected survival rates.

Survival rates by demographics

Breast cancer survival rates and mortality numbers are different depending on the group of people being studied. Survival-related demographics tracked in the SEER breast cancer database include age, race and ethnicity, and gender. Below, we present different survival rates from the SEER Explorer tool.

Survival rates by age

Researchers look at breast cancer statistics across demographics such as age. Keep in mind that just like the survival rates appearing earlier on this page, the numbers reflected in this table are averages.

Breast cancer 5-year relative survival rates by age and stage at diagnosis (women, all races) 2013-2019

All ages Ages <50 Ages 50-64 Ages 65+
Stage at diagnosis % surviving % surviving % surviving % surviving
Localized 99.3 97.4 98.7 100.0
Regional 86.3 87.8 87.8 83.3
Distant 31.0 41.7 32.1 25.0

While these numbers provide a broad look at survival by age and stage, there are details that were not considered here. For instance, we know that women aged 45 and under are more likely to be diagnosed with biologically aggressive breast cancers, and this has a negative impact on prognosis. However, the factors that provide this information, including cancer grade, whether a person has an inherited high-risk gene mutation, or test results that show a high risk for recurrence, were not part of the information gathered for this table.

For more specific information about metastatic (stage IV) breast cancer survival rates, visit Stage IV breast cancer prognosis.

Survival rates by breast cancer subtype

Below are tables showing the five-year relative survival rates by age and stage at diagnosis for the four most common subtypes of breast cancer. Remember that every breast cancer case is unique, and that the numbers presented here are averages calculated from a large group of people over a long period of time. They may not represent your experience. If you have questions, it’s okay to take statistics to your care team and ask them to help you understand more.

If you’re interested in seeing more data on breast cancer survival and trends, this tool provided by SEER can be useful.

HR+/HER2- breast cancer five-year relative survival rates by age and stage at diagnosis (women, all races) 2013-2019

All ages Ages <50 Ages 50-64 Ages 65+
Stage at diagnosis % surviving % surviving % surviving % surviving
Localized 100.0 98.6 99.7 100.0
Regional 90.3 91.2 91.3 88.5
Distant 34.0 42.3 33.7 30.7

HER2-/HR+ breast cancer five-year relative survival rates by age and stage at diagnosis (women, all races) 2013-2019

All ages Ages <50 Ages 50-64 Ages 65+
Stage at diagnosis % surviving % surviving % surviving % surviving
Localized 97.2 96.8 97.5 96.6
Regional 84.0 87.1 85.9 76.8
Distant 39.5 49.0 40.3 29.0

Triple-negative breast cancer five-year relative survival rates by age and stage at diagnosis (women, all races) 2013-2019

All ages Ages <50 Ages 50-64 Ages 65+
Stage at diagnosis % surviving % surviving % surviving % surviving
Localized 91.8 91.0 92.5 91.6
Regional 66.2 67.7 68.4 61.5
Distant 12.8 16.4 13.0 10.2

Triple-positive breast cancer five-year relative survival rates by age and stage at diagnosis (women, all races) 2013-2019

All ages Ages <50 Ages 50-64 Ages 65+
Stage at diagnosis % surviving % surviving % surviving % surviving
Localized 99.1 98.4 99.0 99.8
Regional 89.8 93.4 90.6 83.3
Distant 45.6 57.8 46.3 34.7

Survival rates and mortality numbers by race and ethnicity

Another way that researchers track survival by demographic is by gathering information about survival in different racial groups. Just like the numbers above, the numbers shown here are averages that did not consider every factor that impacts survival.

Chart of five-year relative survival rates by stage at diagnosis and race/ethnicity, US 2012-2018

Source: American Cancer Society, Breast Cancer Facts & Figures, 2022-2024

U.S. breast cancer mortality numbers in women, by race and ethnicity, 2016-2020

Race/Ethnicity Number of deaths per 100,000 women
White 19.7
Black 27.6
Asian/Pacific Islander 11.7
American Indian/Alaska Native (total U.S.) 20.5
Hispanic 13.7

We know that survival rates for Black women are different than they are for white women. Black women are 40% more likely to die of breast cancer than white women. This disparity exists in part due to differences in tumor biology, but also because of socioeconomic inequality that demands change.

  • Black women are more likely to be diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer, which often means a poorer prognosis than with other subtypes of breast cancer in the first five years after diagnosis.
  • Socioeconomic disparity also affects survival rates. Some of these disparities lead to decreased access to preventive care, lack of adequate health insurance, and inadequate or disparate treatment from healthcare providers. LBBC is committed to empowering our community to advocate for health equity through educational programs, sharing the stories of Black women, and more.

However, whether a woman was faced with socioeconomic challenges or had triple-negative breast cancer was not looked at when the researchers gathered these numbers.

Survival rates by gender

SEER also tracks survival rates by male and female gender.

Five-year relative survival rates for male and female breast cancer (2013-2019)

Male Female
Stage at diagnosis % surviving % surviving
Localized 95.3 99.3
Regional 85.9 86.3
Distant 25.6 31.0

Looking at statistics can feel like we’re getting a clearer view of a cancer’s prognosis. But it’s important to remember that some factors aren’t reflected in averages. Two people of the same age, gender, and ethnicity can be diagnosed with the same subtype of breast cancer and have very different outcomes; often, doctors don’t know why this happens. A person’s income, place of residence, diet, lifestyle, past or ongoing medical issues, and how their body responds to cancer treatment all impact their individual survival outcome. This page is not a crystal ball. On the day you’re reading this page, many factors that influenced the numbers reported here, including what cancer treatments are available to you, may have changed.

What does all of this mean for you? Since these numbers do not capture important details that can make your individual situation very different than someone else’s, it’s important to have a conversation with your doctor if you’re concerned about life expectancy. This is about the whole you: not just the characteristics of the cancer, but many other factors too. You’re more than a number. You’re a whole human being, and each person diagnosed with breast cancer has a unique picture of their prognosis.


Rate of diagnosis

The breast cancer incidence rate in the United States, which describes how many cases of breast cancer are diagnosed each year, has increased each year for many years. But a rising incidence rate does not necessarily mean that more people are developing breast cancer. It can also mean that more people are being diagnosed due to new and better diagnostic techniques. For example, in the 1980s and 1990s, annual mammograms became much more common. Data show that during those decades, many more people were diagnosed with breast cancer.

At first glance, it can seem like a bad thing to have more people diagnosed with breast cancer. But with increased screening like mammograms, cancers are being found at earlier stages than cancers diagnosed after symptoms start. Cancers found at earlier stages are often smaller and easier to treat.

The chart below shows the rate of breast cancer incidence and declining mortality in U.S. women over 45 years.

Trends in female breast cancer death rates by race/ethnicity, US, 1975-2020

Source: American Cancer Society, Breast Cancer Facts & Figures, 2022-2024


Coping with your prognosis

Even if your healthcare team has told you that your prognosis is very good, it’s normal to feel worried sometimes about how long you’ll live. Fear of recurrence or cancer progression is extremely common after a diagnosis.

If you’re dealing with anxiety or overwhelmed about your prognosis, you’re not alone, and we’re here for you. Visit our page on coping with a new breast cancer diagnosis for information and tips on navigating different emotions and finding support.


The importance of screening

If you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer, and especially if you have a higher risk due to a hereditary gene mutation or other factors, screening can mean earlier detection of a recurrence or new breast cancer. Regular breast cancer screenings, including mammograms, have been shown to reduce the risk of dying from breast cancer and increase survival rates. Talk with your healthcare team about the screening plan that’s best for you.


Stay connected

Sign up to receive emotional support, medical insight, personal stories, and more, delivered to your inbox weekly.


Reviewed and updated: August 7, 2023

Reviewed by: Douglas Yee, MD


Was this page helpful?