Breast Cancer Survival Triples in Last 60 Years

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During the past 60 years, the average number of women who survived for 10 years after being diagnosed with breast cancer and treated at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center tripled.

From 1944 to 1954, only 25.1% of women diagnosed with any stage breast cancer survived for 10 years after diagnosis. Thanks to new treatments and research, 76.5% of woman diagnosed with breast cancer were alive 10 years after diagnosis during the years 1995 to 2004. The study results were presented at the 2010 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Breast Cancer Symposium.

Sometimes it may seem as if improvements in breast cancer diagnosis and treatment are too gradual or too slow to be developed. But healthcare advances usually do happen in baby steps not giant leaps forward. And baby steps can add up to giant leaps over time: at the MD Anderson Cancer Center, breast cancer survival tripled in 60 years.

The researchers looked at the medical records of all 12,809 women who were treated for breast cancer at the MD Anderson Center between 1944 and 2004 to figure out the survival rates over the 60 years. Survival rates went up dramatically no matter how advanced the breast cancer was at the time of diagnosis:

  • Women diagnosed with breast cancer that hadn't spread beyond the breast (local breast cancer) had 10-year survival rates go up from 55.0% in 1944-54 to 86.1% by 1995-2004.
  • Women diagnosed with breast cancer that had spread to nearby skin or lymph nodes (regional breast cancer) had 10-year survival rates go up from 16.2% in 1944-54 to 74.1% by 1995-2004.
  • Women diagnosed with breast cancer that had spread to other parts of the body away from the breast (metastatic breast cancer) had 10-year survival rates go up from 3.3% in 1944-54 to 22.2% by 1995-2004.

A number of factors likely have contributed to these dramatic 10-year survival rate improvements, including:

  • better screening, resulting in earlier diagnoses
  • better coordination of breast cancer care
  • surgery improvements
  • new and better chemotherapy medicines and other treatments
  • hormonal therapy given after surgery to lower the risk of hormone-receptor-positive cancer coming back (recurrence)

Stay tuned to Breastcancer.org Research News to learn about advances that will lead to better care and even better survival for people diagnosed with breast cancer.

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