Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer
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 will be more than 168,000 women living with metastatic breast cancer in the U.S. in 2020 .
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).
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).
Although metastatic breast cancer is not curable today, it can be treated. Treatment focuses on length and quality of life.
As treatment continues to improve, so does survival. Today, some people may live many years with metastatic breast cancer.
Emerging Areas in Treatment
Many new drugs to treat metastatic breast cancer are under study.
Clinical trials offer the chance to try new treatments and possibly benefit from them.
After talking with your health care provider, we encourage you to consider joining a clinical trial.
Managing Side Effects and Supportive Care
There are many ways to manage side effects caused by metastatic breast cancer treatment and the cancer itself.
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.
Controlling pain is a standard part of treatment for metastatic breast cancer. Many methods of pain control are available.
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.
Counseling (either one-on-one or in a group setting) can help improve your mental well-being and quality of life.
Support for Family and Loved Ones
Emotional support is important for those who love and care for someone with metastatic breast cancer.
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.
Find financial assistance resources, including the Komen Treatment Assistance Program.
Find Susan G. Komen® educational resources on metastatic breast cancer.
If you have metastatic breast cancer, talk with your health care provider before getting a seasonal flu shot to make sure it’s safe for you.
If you are a caregiver, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends you get the seasonal flu shot.
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