Survival rates for breast cancer are higher with early diagnosis and treatment. A combination of treatments can successfully treat breast cancer.

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), curing cancer means that treatment has eliminated the cancer from the body, a person does not need more treatment, and doctors do not expect the disease to come back.

It is rare that a doctor can be sure a person’s cancer will never return. Instead, they may say the cancer is in remission.

Partial remission means the cancer has shrunk but has not gone away completely. Complete remission means that the signs and symptoms of cancer are entirely gone and tests do not find any cancer cells.

The National Cancer Institute states that a doctor may consider a person’s cancer cured when they cannot detect the disease after 5 years of complete remission.

This article discusses whether breast cancer is curable in different stages. It also looks at the survival rates and provides information on where people who have a breast cancer diagnosis can find support.

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It is possible for breast cancer to go into complete remission. This means that breast cancer treatment can be successful and that the cancer will not return.

A person’s outlook can depend on a variety of factors, such as:

  • the type of breast cancer
  • the stage of breast cancer
  • the tumor grade
  • whether the breast cancer is estrogen-, progesterone-, or HER2-positive or -negative
  • the type of treatment a person can access

Breast cancer is highly treatable in its early stages, and the outlook is generally very positive.

Advanced cancer is not curable in most cases, according to the ACS. Still, treatment can often help:

  • shrink the cancer
  • slow the growth of the cancer
  • relieve symptoms
  • prolong a person’s life

Stage 1

A person with stage 1 breast cancer has cancerous cells that have invaded the surrounding breast tissue.

A variety of treatment options can cause the cancer to go into remission at this stage.

The primary treatment for stage 1 is surgery with radiation, although some people may benefit from additional treatments, such as chemotherapy or hormonal therapy, to decrease the risk of the cancer coming back.

Stage 2

Individuals with stage 2 breast cancer have cancer cells in their breast tissue, the nearby lymph nodes, or both.

This stage of cancer is curable with a combination of treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and hormonal therapy.

Such treatment techniques are increasingly recognized as an effective approach for improving a person’s chance of cure or prolonging survival.

Stage 3

Stage 3 breast cancer occurs when a tumor has developed and spread to several lymph nodes. It can be harder to treat but is still curable with aggressive treatment.

The treatment can involve a combination of drug-based treatments such as chemotherapy, targeted cancer drugs, and hormone therapy, as well as surgery.

However, the chances of successful treatment depend on the extent of spread, the grade of the cancer, the hormone receptor status of the cancer, and the individual’s response to treatment.

Stage 4

Metastatic breast cancer occurs at stage 4, when the disease has spread to other areas of the body, such as the brain, bones, lungs, and liver.

Although this stage of breast cancer is not curable, it is usually treatable.

Current advances in research and medical technology mean that more people can live longer by managing the disease as a chronic condition, focusing on quality of life as a primary goal.

The Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) database tracks 5-year relative survival rates for breast cancer in people in the United States, based on how far the cancer has spread. It groups cancers into localized, regional, and distant stages.

A relative survival rate helps give an idea of how long a person with a particular condition will live after receiving a diagnosis compared with those without the condition.

For example, if the 5-year relative survival rate is 70%, it means that a person with the condition is 70% as likely to live for 5 years as someone without the condition.

It is important to remember that these figures are estimates. A person can consult a healthcare professional about how their condition is going to affect them.

The 2012–2018 data show that the 5-year relative survival rate for female breast cancer was 90.6%.

Males have a 1 in 833 chance of developing breast cancer and they have a lower overall survival rate than females.

The average survival rates according to the stage at diagnosis, based on data from SEER and the ACS, are:

Stage5-year survival rate for women 5-year survival rate for men
localized, meaning that the cancer has not yet spread beyond the breast99.1%95%
regional, meaning that the cancer has reached nearby lymph nodes86.1%83%
distant, meaning that the cancer has spread to other parts of the body30%19%
unknown stage60%

If a person has received a diagnosis of breast cancer, they may feel fearful or overwhelmed.

Speaking with a doctor can be helpful. A doctor may recommend breast cancer support groups or online communities that can offer help, advice, and resources.

The Healthline Breast Cancer app has an online community for people to connect and find emotional support from others who are having a similar experience.

The National Breast Cancer Foundation, the ACS, and CancerCare offer resources for people living with breast cancer.

Individuals can find important health information and listen to personal stories on the Breast Cancer Podcasts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

BreastCancerNow.org, which is based in the United Kingdom, hosts virtual meetups for men to share information, raise awareness, and support each other.

It is possible for breast cancer to go into complete remission.

The outlook tends to be better if a person receives treatment in the early stages of the disease. Advanced breast cancer may not be curable. However, treatment can improve symptoms and prolong a person’s life.

It is important to remember that cancer treatments are continuing to improve survival rates.