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Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer

Read our blog, Looking Back Helps Me See the Progress I’ve Made Against Metastatic Breast Cancer.

Important information about coronavirus (COVID-19).

This section discusses metastatic breast cancer treatment and care.

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).

A diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer is devastating. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed and scared. You’re not alone though. It’s estimated there were more than 168,000 women living with metastatic breast cancer in the U.S. in 2020 [1].

It may be helpful to talk with others who have metastatic breast cancer. We have resources for finding a support group (in-person, online and telephone).

Signs and Symptoms of Metastasis

Metastasis is most often found when people report symptoms, such as bone pain, to their health care providers. Based on the symptoms, tests may be done to check if the breast cancer has returned and spread to other organs (metastasized).

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Newly Diagnosed with Metastatic Breast Cancer

If you’re newly diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, you’re not alone. We have information to help you make informed decisions about your care. If you have questions and want to talk with someone, call the Komen Breast Care Helpline at 1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636) or email at helpline@komen.org.

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Treatment

Although metastatic breast cancer cannot be cured today, it can be treated. Treatment focuses on extending life and maintaining quality of life. As treatment continues to improve, so does survival.

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Emerging Areas in Treatment

Many new drugs to treat metastatic breast cancer are under study.

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Clinical Trials

Clinical trials offer the chance to try new treatments and possibly benefit from them. 

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Managing Side Effects and Supportive Care

There are many ways to manage side effects caused by metastatic breast cancer treatment and the cancer itself.

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Bone Metastases

The bones are one of the most common sites of breast cancer metastases. Bone metastases can damage your bones. Medications to strengthen and protect your bones reduce this damage.

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Managing Pain

Controlling pain is a standard part of treatment for metastatic breast cancer. Many methods of pain control are available.

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Quality of Life

Quality of life describes your overall well-being. Your emotional and physical health as well as concerns about financial issues can affect your quality of life.

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Support

Counseling (either one-on-one or in a group setting) can help improve your mental well-being and quality of life.

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Support for Family and Loved Ones

Emotional support is important for those who love and care for someone with metastatic breast cancer.

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Depression

It’s common to get depressed when living with metastatic breast cancer. Let your health care providers know how you are feeling emotionally. Depression can (and needs to) be treated.

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Hospice and End-Of-Life Care

At some point, treatment for metastatic breast cancer may be stopped. This can happen when treatment stops showing any benefit or when it greatly affects quality of life. Reducing symptoms then becomes the focus of care.

Hospice can make this later stage of care as comfortable as possible.

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Financial Assistance

Find financial assistance resources, including the Komen Treatment Assistance Program.

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Educational Resources

Find Susan G. Komen® educational resources on metastatic breast cancer.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends people with cancer and their caregivers get the seasonal flu shot.

Find more information from the CDC about the seasonal flu. 

 

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.
  • Our online and telephone support groups provide a safe place for all to discuss the challenges of breast cancer, get information and exchange support. To learn more about upcoming group opportunities, call the Komen Breast Care Helpline at 1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636) or email helpline@komen.org.
  • We offer an online support community through our closed Komen Metastatic Breast Cancer group. The Facebook group provides a place where those living with metastatic breast cancer, and those who love them, can find support, friendship and information. Visit Facebook, search for Komen Metastatic Breast Cancer (Stage IV) Group and 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 may also help you find breast cancer resources in your area. Find your local Affiliate and a list of 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.

 Updated 03/29/21

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