Metastatic Breast Cancer

What is metastatic breast cancer?

Metastatic breast cancer (also called stage IV or advanced breast cancer) is not a specific type of breast cancer. It’s the most advanced stage of breast cancer.

Metastatic breast cancer is breast cancer that has spread beyond the breast and nearby lymph nodes to other parts of the body (most often the bones, lungs, liver or brain).

Although metastatic breast cancer has spread to another part of the body, it’s still breast cancer and treated as breast cancer.

For example, breast cancer that has spread to the bones is still breast cancer (not bone cancer). So, it’s treated with breast cancer drugs, rather than treatments for a cancer that began in the bones.

How many people have metastatic breast cancer?

It’s estimated there are more than 168,000 women living with metastatic breast cancer in the U.S. in 2020 [15]. Men can also have metastatic breast cancer.

When can metastatic breast cancer occur?

Most often, metastatic breast cancer arises months or years after a person has completed treatment for early or locally advanced breast cancer. This is sometimes called a distant recurrence.

Some people have metastatic breast cancer when they are first diagnosed (called de novo metastatic breast cancer). However, this isn’t common in the U.S. (6 percent of diagnoses in women and 9 percent of diagnoses in men) [16].

Learn more about breast cancer recurrence.

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Komen Perspectives

Read our perspective on living with metastatic breast cancer.*

Treatment

Although metastatic breast cancer can’t be cured today, it can be treated. Treatment focuses on extending life and maintaining quality of life.

Treatment is guided by many factors, including:

  • The biology of the tumor (characteristics of the cancer cells)
  • Where the cancer has spread
  • Symptoms
  • Past breast cancer treatments
  • Personal goals and preferences

Learn more about treatment for metastatic breast cancer.

Learn about managing side effects and supportive care.

Learn about support groups and other sources of support.

Prognosis

Modern treatments continue to improve survival for people with metastatic breast cancer. However, survival varies greatly from person to person.

About one-third of women diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in the U.S. live at least 5 years after diagnosis [15]. Some women may live 10 or more years beyond diagnosis [17].

 

SUSAN G. KOMEN® SUPPORT RESOURCES  

  • If you or a loved one needs more information about breast health or breast cancer, call the Komen Breast Care Helpline at 1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636). All calls are answered by a trained specialist or oncology social worker in English and Spanish, Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. ET. You can also email the helpline at helpline@komen.org.
  • We offer an online support community through our closed Facebook Group – Komen Breast Cancer group. The Facebook group provides a place where those with a connection to breast cancer can discuss each other’s experiences and build strong relationships to provide support to each other. Visit Facebook and search for “Komen Breast Cancer group” to request to join the closed group.
  • Komen Affiliates offer breast health education and some fund breast cancer programs through local community organizations. Your local Affiliate can also help you find breast cancer resources in your area. Find your local Affiliate and a list of Affiliate events focused on metastatic breast cancer.
  • Our Family and Friends section has detailed information and resources for loved ones.
  • Our fact sheets, booklets and other education materials offer additional information. 

 

 

*Please note, the information provided within Komen Perspectives articles is only current as of the date of posting. Therefore, some information may be out of date.

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