The survival experiences of female breast cancer patients diagnosed in 1968-81 in Finland and in Estonia were compared. The series consisted of 18,729 patients in Finland and 4100 in Estonia. The overall estimated 5-year relative survival rate was 67.3% in Finland and 55.9% in Estonia. The stage-adjusted 5-year relative survival rate in Estonia was 63.4% (the Finnish rates used as a standard). Older patients in Finland had much higher survival rates than older patients in Estonia. There was a clear difference in the stage distribution in Estonia between older and younger age groups, with non-localized cases occurring in older age groups. No such difference was noticed in Finland. It seems that the diagnostic lag for older women is longer in Estonia than in Finland. In Estonia older patients seek medical assistance later, or symptoms and signs of younger patients are more effectively studied.