Despite billions of dollars spent on research , cancer continues to make speak of it as being the second major cause of death in the U.S. Each year, the disease causes the death of about 559,888 people.
Breast cancer alone kills around 41.528 women each year in the United States; this represents an estimate of 4 deaths per hour. With nearly 205.000 new cases each yearworldwide, breast cancer becomes a matter of concern for all women in the world.
However, there is hope; breast cancer survival rate is steadily increasing in recent years. Over 80% of women who have breast cancer live more than ten years. This rate, nevertheless, varies by race; from 1999-2005, the overall 5-year survival rate was 89.1%, with 90.3% for white women and 77.9% for black women. Although minimal, there are victims who completely recover from the disease; do your best to be one of them. However, your chance of being cured or surviving for over 10 years depends on various factors:
Location and extension of the tumor – You’re less likely to survive if the cancer has spread into your lymph nodes or other organs in your body. The risk of recurrence increases compatibly with the number of axillary lymph nodes affected. Thus, with more than 10 cancerous lymph nodes, you have a great chance to see the disease return after treatment. The size of the lymph node affected by the cancer is also important.
Size of the tumor – the size of the tumor plays a major role in your survival chance. A large breast cancer tends to spread or metastasize to other organs in your body; thus:
- a tumor smaller than 1 cm, five–year survival rate is approximately 90%
- a tumor of 1 to 2 cm, five–year survival rate is approximately 75%
- a tumor of 2cm to 5cm, five–year survival rate is 30% to 40%
- a tumor 5 cm or more, five–year survival rate is less than 25%.
Invasion of the tumor – you can be diagnosed with noninvasive breast cancer or invasive breast cancer:
- Noninvasive breast cancer: If you are lucky to detect the tumor in its early stage, your chance of being completely cured is very high. For a cancer in situ that is localized and has not reached the lobules, the chance of recurrence is very low.
- Invasive breast cancer: an invasive cancer that has spread locally or into other organs, the chance of survival depends on the size of the tumor and type of organs it has invaded. Usually, a tumor that has spread into the lymphatic system of the breast is less dangerous; in the other hand, a cancer that has affected the muscles of the chest may present serious complications. The survival chance considerably decreases.
Hormone-receptor positive or negative– You have higher chance to survive if your tumor is hormone receptor positive. Your breast may contain hormone receptor-positive cells or hormone receptor negative cells. Hormone receptor-positive cells do not grow much but they produce large quantities of receptors for estrogen and progesterone. Hormone receptor negative cells, in the other hand, produce less hormone receptors, but they have more potential for growth. If the hormone receptor negative cells are normal, they turn into hormone receptor-positive cells and have their characteristics. When they are cancerous, these cells remain in a state of hormone receptor negative, and multiply anarchically. Therefore, you have a better chance of survival if your tumor is receptor-positive.
Genetic – there are at least three genetic factors that may contribute to your prognosis:
- No diploid DNA – the normal breast cells are diploid (chromosomes it contains are present in pairs) and have the ability to produce 2 copies of each chromosome. Cancer cells, in the other hand, do not respect this harmonious reproduction. This lack of diploid cell makes the risk of breast cancer recurrence nearly 3 times higher.
- High level of cell reproduction – cell division is the mode of multiplication of any cell. When the division is normal, it allows a cell to divide into two daughter cells; onecell becomes two, and then four, then eight and so on. Cancer cells, however, just divide like crazy; this abnormal cell division is the characteristic of cancer cells.
- Presence of certain neu-oncogenes – overexpression of certain genes such as HER-2/neu (Human Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor-2) tends to amplify aggressiveness of breast cancer in up to 30% of breast cancer patients. If you have this condition, you have an increased risk of recurrence and worse prognosis.
Note: Although fighting cancer is very stressful, a happy mood and healthy lifestyle during and after the treatment have a strong impact in your survival chance. Be happy and positive during and after the therapies.