Stage 4 Breast Cancer Life Expectancy
Breast cancers are assigned to 1 of 4 stages at the time of initial diagnosis and treatment. Stage is determined by the size of the cancer and whether it has spread to lymph nodes under the arm or to more distant parts of the body. Stage 4 breast cancer has spread to distant organs or sites, such as the lungs, liver, brain or bones.
5-Year Survival and Average Length of Life in Stage 4 Breast Cancer
Among all women with stage 4 breast cancer, approximately 20 percent will be alive 5 years after diagnosis, according to data collected by the National Cancer Institute. Approximately 50 percent of women with stage 4 breast cancer are alive 18 months after diagnosis.
Factors That Affect Life Expectancy
Why Do Women Need Estrogen?
Life expectancy in stage 4 breast cancer is improving slowly but steadily. Combination treatment with surgery, radiation, multiple medications and better supportive care have made positive contributions. In the 30 years ending in 2000, 1-year survival, 3-year survival and average length of life improved approximately 30 percent in women with stage 4 breast cancer 1. Data published in January 2004 in the journal "Cancer" from M.D. Anderson Cancer Center support these findings, as does an August 2004 report published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology from 3 breast cancer centers in France 3. Most of the improvements were observed in non-Hispanic white women; African-American women experienced little or no improvement in survival. Other factors that decrease life expectancy include poor access to health care, intolerance of chemotherapy drugs, obesity and cancers that are not sensitive to estrogen and progesterone.
- Life expectancy in stage 4 breast cancer is improving slowly but steadily.
- In the 30 years ending in 2000, 1-year survival, 3-year survival and average length of life improved approximately 30 percent in women with stage 4 breast cancer 1.
Why Do Women Need Estrogen?
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- SEER Survival Monograph: Cancer Survival Among Adults: Cancer of the Female Breast
- Journal of Clinical Oncology: Trends in Survival Over the Past Two Decades Among White and Black Patients With Newly Diagnosed Stage IV Breast Cancer
- The Journal of Clinical Oncology: Breast Cancer With Synchronous Metastases -- Trends in Survival During a 14-Year Period
- Eng, L., Dawood, S., Sopik, V. et al. Ten-Year Survival in Women with Primary Stage IV Breast Cancer. Breast Cancer Research and Treatment. 2016. 160(1):145-152.
- Franzeze, D., DeRose, F., Franzeze, C. et al. Predictive factors for response and survival in a cohort of oligometastatic patients treated with Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy. International Journal of Radiation Oncology-Biology-Physics. 2019 Jan 7. (Epub ahead of print).
- Klar, N., Rosenzweig, M., Diergaarde, B., and A. Brufsky. Features Associated with Long-Term Survival in Metastatic Breast Cancer. Journal of Clinical Oncology. 2018. 36(15_Suppl):e13074-e13074.
- National Cancer Institute. Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program. Cancer Stat Facts: Female Breast Cancer. 2018.
C. Richard Patterson is a retired surgeon and chief medical officer with special interest and experience in gastrointestinal, breast, cancer and trauma surgery. He is the author or co-author of 17 scientific publications, including textbook chapters.