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Home > Understanding Breast Cancer > Breast Cancer Research > Table 35: Tumor size and breast cancer survival


Table 35: Tumor size and breast cancer survival

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: Tumor size is related to 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 as tumor size increases, breast cancer survival decreases. 

Study selection criteria: Most recent SEER data on tumor size and breast cancer survival. 

Table note: Relative survival compares survival rates for women with breast cancer to women in the general population over a certain period of time. For example, the five-year relative survival for women with a breast tumor smaller than one centimeter is 93 percent. This means women with tumors smaller than one centimeter are, on average, 93 percent as likely as women in the general population to live five beyond their diagnosis.

Relative survival rates are averages and vary depending on each person’s diagnosis and treatment.

Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program Findings
Among 21,465 women diagnosed with non-metastatic breast cancer between 1995 and 1999 

Tumor size 

Five-year relative breast cancer survival 

Smaller than 1 cm


1-1.9 cm


2-2.9 cm


3-3.9 cm


4-4.9 cm


Larger than 5 cm


cm = centimeter 


1. Elkin EB, Hudis C, Begg CB, Schrag D. The effect of changes in tumor size on breast carcinoma survival in the U.S.: 1975-1999. Cancer. 104(6):1149-57, 2005.

Updated 09/04/13