What is Breast Cancer Survival Rate in India ?

Breast cancer is a form of cancer that develops in the cells of the mammary glands(breasts). It can occur in both men and women, but it is most common in women. Breast cancer survival rates have increased, and the death toll has also steadily decreased, mostly owing to early detection and treatment. It is therefore critical to see a doctor if you begin noticing the signs of symptoms of the disease in order to prevent unfortunate consequences.

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  • A lump in the breast or armpit area
  • Thickening of a part of the breast
  • Change in size, shape, or appearance of the breast
  • Dimpling of the breast skin
  • Redness, flakiness, peeling, or crusting of the skin surrounding the nipple
  • Inverted nipple or pulling in of the nipple

With better awareness and understanding of the disease, its signs and symptoms, and treatments available, the survival rates may gradually increase.

Breast Cancer in India

Breast cancer is the most prevalent type of cancer among women in India. Women are generally diagnosed later, at an advanced stage of cancer and with prognosis. The statistics suggest that one woman gets diagnosed with breast cancer every 4 minutes in India, and one woman dies of breast cancer every 13 minutes.  Furthermore, research suggests that 1 in 28 women is likely to develop breast cancer in their lifetime. 

Among the prevalent cases, almost 50% are within the age group 25-50; the prevalence of the disease among younger women is extremely troubling, hence it becomes a critical factor to make an appointment with the doctor once you notice symptoms of breast cancer. Almost 50% cancer patients visit the doctor as late as stage 3, and 15-20% when they are in stage 4. 

Survival Rate of Breast Cancer in India

In India, the survival rate of breast cancer is a shallow 66%. The reason for such a low survival rate is late detection and diagnosis. The most efficient intervention for breast cancer is early detection rapid treatment (World Cancer Report 2020). According to a 2018 report of Breast Cancer, about 1,62,468 new cases were registered and 87,090 deaths were reported. 

Cancer survival becomes extremely difficult when it ascends to higher stages, and most breast cancer patients in India are in stages 3 and 4. Survival rate in India is considerably poor at 60% compared to 80% in the U.S. This low survival rate stems from lack of awareness of the disease and poor early screening and diagnosis.

Which state has the highest breast cancer rate?

As of recent reports, Kerala has the highest breast cancer rates in India, followed by Mizoram, Haryana, Delhi and Karnataka. With regards to deaths caused by breast cancer, Mizoram reports the most number of deaths followed by Kerala and Haryana. It may be added that breast cancer is common in urban women than rural women (1 out of 22 in urban women and 1 out of 60 in rural women). There has indeed been a spike in breast cancer cases in the age group 30-50, and there is a chance that the numbers will likely increase over the years.

Why the rise of breast cancer in India?

The numbers say it all; there is no denying the fact that breast cancer cases have increased tremendously and will continue to do so unless we take preventive measures into our hands. In cities of Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Bhopal, Kolkata, Chennai, Ahmedabad, among all female cancers there is 25%-30% accountability for breast cancer, making it a portion of 1/4th of all female cancers. 

50% of the cases are in the younger population of India, and almost 70% of these cases are in the advanced stages with poor survival rate and high mortality rates. The numbers are astonishing and increasing day by day. As per a 2016 report by the Indian Council for Medical Research, the total number of new cases was 14.5 lakhs. This figure has escalated to 17.3 lakhs in just 4 years (as per the 2020 report).

Reasons for low survival rate in India

The principal cause for such a low breast cancer survival rate is late detection. Increasing awareness about the disease is a must. Most women do not visit the doctor until they notice pain in the breasts, and by the time diagnosis is done, the cancer has already progressed to an advanced stage. You must be aware that breast cancer is curable and the chances of survival are higher if detected in time. The course of action that can be taken is by spreading awareness about its detection and early diagnosis. 

According to Ravi Mehrotra, director at National Institute of Cancer Prevention and Research, the major reason for low survival rates of breast cancer in India is that awareness and treatment is lacking. They receive cases in the third or fourth stages when treatment becomes extremely difficult and nearly impossible. 

Survival rates in India vs. Survival rates in Western countries

He (Ravi Mehrotra) compares the screening routine in India with that of Western countries, where in the West breast cancer screening is a normal routine in healthcare, meanwhile in India the screening routine is very low. In developed countries, only 25% of breast cancer patients die and 70%-80% survive because of early detection and treatment. Whereas in India, 50%-60% of patients die from breast cancer (Ramesh Sarin, senior consultant of surgical oncology at Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, Delhi). He mentions the scarcity of diagnostic centres and knowledgeable oncologists to be the secondary factor of low survival rates. Financial constraints also play a critical role in determining how early or late women go for their diagnosis. 

What can be done to promote the survival rate of breast cancer in India?

As we are aware of the astounding number of breast cancer cases in India, and the numbers will only get worse from there if we do not take necessary steps. The only way to curb the cases from rising is by increasing awareness. Women should be educated that breast cancer is treatable if it is detected as earlier as possible. Awareness programs should include information on the ways it can be detected and how early diagnosis can be done. 

Men and women should be educated about how lifestyle plays a significant role in development of breast cancer. Information on how to lead a healthy lifestyle, as well as genetical inclination towards breast cancer development, should be available to the public. Awareness of family’s medical history can be very useful in determining whether you are vulnerable to developing breast cancer. If so, taking preventive drugs or undergoing preventive surgery are options to consider. Another simple yet effective breast cancer preventive step is to learn how to do a self-breast examination. Essentially, women should make it a routine to self-examine regularly after the age of 30.

To summarise, breast cancer survival rates in India is shockingly low, hence, it is of great importance to be self-aware and encourage other women around you to gain awareness. Prevention is a step away from cure, thus it is critical to be aware and be prepared. Willingness to discuss health concerns openly is pivotal in enabling women to attain information and to access medical assistance at the earliest. 


  1. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/breast-cancer/symptoms-causes/syc-20352470

  2. https://cytecare.com/blog/statistics-of-breast-cancer/

  3. https://www.oncostem.com/blog/alarming-facts-about-breast-cancer-in-india/

  4. http://cancerindia.org.in/india-still-low-breast-cancer-survival-rate-66-study/

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