This summary table contains detailed information about research studies. Summary tables offer an informative look at the science behind many breast cancer guidelines and recommendations. However, they should be viewed with some caution. In order to read and interpret research tables successfully, it is important to understand some key concepts. Learn how to read a research table.
Introduction: Lymph node status is one of the most important predictors of breast cancer recurrence and survival.
Data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program – which collects cancer data in the U.S. – clearly show women with cancer-free lymph nodes have better survival than women with cancerous nodes.
As the number of cancerous nodes increases, survival decreases.
Study selection criteria: Most recent SEER data on lymph node status and breast cancer survival.
Table note: Relative survival compares survival rates (over a certain period of time) for women with breast cancer versus women in the general population.
For example, the 5-year relative survival for women with negative lymph nodes is 99 percent. This means women with negative lymph nodes are, on average, 99 percent as likely as women in the general population to live 5 years beyond their diagnosis.
Relative survival rates are averages though and vary depending on each person’s diagnosis and treatment.
Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program Findings302,763 women with breast cancer
Lymph node status
5-year relative survival
Negative lymph nodes
1-3 positive lymph nodes
4 or more positive lymph nodes
Unknown number of positive lymph nodes
1. Ries LAG and Eisner MP. Chapter 13-Cancer of the female breast. In: Ries LAG, Young JL, Keel GE, Eisner MP, Lin YD, Horner M-J (editors). SEER Survival Monograph: Cancer survival among adults: U.S. SEER Program, 1988-2001, patient and tumor characteristics. National Cancer Institute, SEER Program, NIH Pub. No. 07-6215, Bethesda, MD, 2007.
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